Take the Shot

Huy Doan, a professional photographer and Giant ambassador, has been on a near lifelong cycling journey, one that began with backyard ramps and BMX stunts and has evolved over the years. These days, Huy finds inspiration riding the streets, canyons and mountains in and around Los Angeles. 

Huy Doan on his TCR Advanced SL Disc road bike in Los Angeles

Bret Lemke photo

For Huy Doan, cycling has been a hobby, an escape, a form of expression. Starting at his childhood home near Chicago, the bike has always been a means of expanding his world. Of discovering what might be around the next corner.
Along the way, bikes helped Huy build lasting friendships, fuel his creative pursuits, and discover a path to becoming a successful photographer in Los Angeles. The road to get here has included some bumps and bruises, a few trips to the hospital. But looking back, Huy says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“What I first loved about BMX is that there were absolutely no rules,” says Huy, who grew up in a western suburb of Chicago. “You could do anything you wanted. From doing wheelies all day up and down the street, to trying to ride no handed all the way around the block. I was always wanting to learn more tricks and push my limits.”

Huy Doan riding dirt jumps near Los Angeles

Aaron Nardi photo

When he wasn’t riding, Huy was honing his photography skills by taking photos of his friends riding dirt, street and contests around the Midwest.

“It was just about being young, clueless, and trying to ride your bike every day with your friends,” he says. “During the summer we would ride trails during the day and city streets at night. During the winter, we would find someone to drive us to an indoor skatepark called SCRAP. We would travel to different states together to enter contests or ride a new skatepark and trails. We had a bunch of local kids turn pro in our scene and built a solid foundation within our crew.”

This was the pre-digital era, which meant learning to shoot with film. “It wasn’t easy learning how to take BMX photos pre-digital and YouTube,” Huy says. “It’s one thing to take non-action photos, but learning to take good action photos and adding strobes was a steep learning curve. Seems crazy now to think about learning by trial and error back then in the film era.”

Giant ambassador Huy Doan riding dirt jumps near Los Angeles

Aaron Nardi photo

Huy still remembers the moment he realized he could turn the hobby into a career. “My first published photo was of my good friend Kevin Porter doing a X-up tail whip,” he says. “It was a trick that he invented and no one had really ever seen it done. I sold the image to his bike sponsor and they ran ads in the biggest BMX magazines. It was just surreal to see how one image could be seen by so many people.”
From there, Huy began expanding his work. “Outside of BMX, my first photo jobs were from the Chicago music scene,” he says. “I began shooting local acts and DJs, traveling with artists, documenting their lives and creating art for their albums.”

With his expanding portfolio in the arts and entertainment world, Huy decided at age 26 to move to Los Angeles. The career continued to build, and Huy landed a certain client he has now been with for years, one that most know by just one name: Oprah.
“I remember on my first day Oprah's Director of Photography saying to me if you do a good job you’ll stick around for a long time,” Huy says.  “I made sure not to mess up. That was seven years ago, and we are still going. It’s a combination of hard work and a lot of luck to have those kinds of opportunities.”

Huy Doan on his TCR Advanced SL Disc road bike in Los Angeles

Bret Lemke photo

Beyond the work opportunities in L.A., Huy suddenly had a whole new world to explore by bike. And no more Chicago winters to contend with. “The cycling culture is so great here,” he says. “And you can’t be mad at being able to ride all year round in great weather.”

Huy was still riding BMX, but in a tale that is familiar to many who have followed a similar path, the small injuries were starting to pile up. While recovering from an ankle injury, he decided to try road riding for the first time.

“I bought my first real road bike off craigslist when I was 33,” Huy says. “It was a fun transition from BMX, but also super challenging. You have some of the best roads in the world here in L.A. from your doorstep. If you want to do 100 miles and 10,000 feet of climbing, you have some good options here when you want to go wild. The trails could use more rain year-round, but when it does rain the trails are so perfect, especially on the east side of L.A.”

Giant ambassador Huy Doan riding his TCR Advanced SL Disc road bike in Los Angeles

Bret Lemke photo

A favorite weekday ride includes a climb up to the Hollywood sign. “It gets twisty and fun going up through the steep Hollywood Hills,” Huy says. “It’s such an iconic landmark that everyone in the world knows, so it’s pretty surreal to be able to ride it any time. For longer rides, anything up Highway 2 is always good. It’s like a choose your own adventure once you’re up there. You can go medium, big, or even overnight, and still be on Highway 2.”
We asked Huy to select a few photos that help paint the picture of his cycling life in L.A. Here are some of his favorites below, described in his own words.

For more, follow Huy's cycling and photography journey on Instagram.