Tag Archives: Fat Tony

Through The Lens: Inside BMX Media

I’m not really sure who the intended audience of this mini “documentary” actually is, but it gives you a little behind the scenes look at what its like to be a BMX photographer/filmer. Despite being severely cringeworthy at several points, there are a few bits of good information sprinkled throughout. If you’re an aspiring lensman, check out the video and read below for a little friendly advice of my own.

I’ve only been in the game for a few years now and some could make the argument that I’m no more qualified to offer advice on this subject than the people in this video, but I couldn’t just have you guys ingesting a bunch of vague pointers. In my years of paying dues and finally getting my foot and my camera bag in the door of the BMX industry, this is the best advice I could give you if you’re looking to do the same.

-Do it for the right reasons.
I feel like I read this in every interview with any BMX photographer ever, but if you’re trying to make a million dollars from shooting/filming BMX, go to the nearest pawn shop and sell all your shit because its not going to happen. Shooting BMX should be, above all else, a labor of love. You should love this shit so much to begin with that getting paid for it shouldn’t matter until you can do what you do with one arm tied behind your back and security breathing down your neck. If you get no genuine thrill from pedaling miles on end while lugging a 50lb camera bag, you’re in the wrong business, friend.

-Know your craft.
This goes beyond reading your camera’s manual cover to cover and knowing what every function does. This is about shooting so many photos or filming so many clips that you can see what its going to look like before you even pull the camera out. This is about closing the gap between what your photos/footage looks like and what you want your stuff to look like. Not by going out and buying a bunch of expensive gear, but by knowing how to squeeze every ounce of capability out of the tools and the light you’re given. Some of the best advice I’ve ever come across is, don’t practice til you get it right, practice til you can’t get it wrong.

-Its not about gear.
As much as you think having a VX1k, 1Dx and Einsteins or a Panasonic with the whale eye will miraculously make your shit look like Jeff Z or Navaz’s, you’re sadly mistaken. Unless you’ve got tens of thousands of dollars to run through B&H like Supermarket Sweep, you should be more worried about doing what you can with what you have instead of worrying about what you could do with what you don’t. Always try to keep in mind that there’s someone out there doing better with less.

-Be your own worst critic, not your number one fan.
No one likes a dude who’s feeling himself to the max. And its even worse when their photos/filming aren’t quite up to par. If you somehow think you’ve arrived or are more worried about your Instagram followers than continually improving the quality of your work, you’re doing yourself a huge disservice and you probably look like a douchebag. Don’t buy into your friends telling you you’re the shit, you gotta see the things that you could’ve done better. Its easy to let a hundred likes go to your head, but if you think that shit matters in real life, I honestly feel bad for you.

-Network, network, network.
Social media has made it easier than ever to meet and communicate with riders from your town all the way up to your favorite pros. In most industries, networking is a bunch of shaking hands and trading business cards, but in BMX it can be anything as simple as saying “whats up, let’s shoot sometime” on Instagram to just sharing a blunt at the skatepark. But be cautious of your hunger level when it comes to stuff like this though, most people can spot a weirdo from a mile away. Which brings us to our next topic…

-Don’t be a weirdo.
In the modern BMX climate, you might be surprised how far being a normal, level-headed person could take you. You could shoot the best photos ever, film the crispiest clips, but if you’re a pain in the ass, next to no one is going to want to deal with you. Don’t be the guy poaching photos/clips of people you don’t know at the skatepark. Don’t be the guy bugging your one and only local pro to shoot on every social network every day. Just try not to be “that guy”.

-Do good work and things will happen.
Same as when it comes to riding, the longer you’re out there doing you and making it look good, people will eventually notice. There’s no better feeling than being the go-to guy for riders or companies, but the only way to get there is to be consistently dialed and reliable. As soon as you start wondering why you’re not getting the recognition you deserve or why people aren’t fucking with you, your mind is in the wrong place and you should stop and re-evaluate why you’re doing what you’re doing. You shouldn’t have to speak for your work, your work should speak for you.

Photo of the Week: Fat Tony


Long story short- this is one of the crazier BMX photos you will ever see. I always knew that flatland had the most potential for experimental shots because of its more stationary nature and no need for obstacles. Now until someone can float a handrail down a river, we only have this spectacular flatland shot.

“Terry Adams has always had a ton of crazy ideas, but the difference between him and most people is that he always seems to find a way to make his crazy ideas come to life. I learned this early on when I first started shooting with him, which led to an incredible friendship more than seven years ago. Terry and I have shot in more unique locations than we can even count, but this past April topped everything.

When I got a call from Terry asking if I wanted to fly to Florida to shoot him riding on water he didn’t even get a chance to finish his sentence before I screamed, “Yes!” The next thing I knew I was chest deep in a lake at 5:00am shooting photos of Terry playing Jesus as the sun was coming up behind him.

I got a handful of good shots from the morning, but this one where Terry is doing a plastic man and the sun is between his arms like he’s holding it on his shoulders quickly became my favorite BMX photo I’ve ever shot.

I have to give a huge thank you to Terry for inviting me to be a part of his special Red Bull project, and I also have to give him props for being able to do some really crazy shit where most riders wouldn’t be able to do anything at all.

This photo sat on my hard drive for seven months, but finally got to see the light of day when the 2014 Flatland Calendar was released, and I can’t think of a better photo for the cover this year! Calendars are free and come with every order you make on flatlandfuel.com while supplies last.

Date Shot: April 20, 2013
Location: Orlando, Florida
Camera: Canon 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon EF 70-200mm f2.8
Focal Length: 80mm
Aperture: f5.6
Shutter Speed: 1/2000
ISO: 100
Lighting: Ambient”

Check out Tony’s portfolio here.

More of Terry’s riding can be seen here.

You can see a little more of how this shot happened from this video.

Behind the Photo with Fat Tony


“To set up the shot I put my main flash on a tall light stand just over my left shoulder as I was crouching down with my 15mm fish eye lens. This was right at 180 degrees from where the sun was coming in from the trees and served as the only flash lighting up Scotty and his bike. The ambient light behind him gave a pretty good key light on his helmet, shoulder, and arm. I would have liked to have another key light hitting the back side of his rear tire, but I only had three flashes with me, and the other two were used to light up the under side of the take off. With that said, I set up my two fill flashes low to the ground just out of the right side of the frame pointing up at the under side of the wooden launch. Without them lighting up the take off it was very dark and shadowy with little to no detail in the wood. Since the take off was so unique in this setup it was important to me to show where he was coming from in the best way possible.

These trails are located behind John Jennings’ parents house, and on the day we were scheduled to shoot Scotty couldn’t get in touch with any of the locals to unchain the roll in, so he had to find a very creative (for lack of better words) way to get the speed for the gap. Being the boss that he is, Scotty not only got the speed, but fully clicked a turndown on his first and only go at it. One and done, in and out…off to the next spot!

Date: May 10, 2013
Location: Area 51 Trails, New Jersey
Camera: Canon 5D Mark II
Lens: Canon 15mm
Camera Settings:
ISO 100
Main Flash: Quantum Q Flash with Turbo 400 w/s battery pack (set to roughly 1/4 power)
Fill Flashes: Vivitar 285 (set to full power)
Transmitter: Pocket Wizard MiniTT1
Receivers: Pocket Wizard Receivers”

More post-processing techniques here.

Fat Tony’s Flatland Book

fat tony flat book cover

To the best of my knowledge, not many books have been published based solely on BMX (Paradigm Shift by Kay Clauberg is one, Ricky Adam‘s Destroying Everything is based loosely around BMX). When I say published, I mean they are sent to a publishing house and approved by an editor. This does not include the many DIY books produced locally from various scenes. Yesterday Fat Tony announced the release of his flatland book using the online publishing service Blurb. Although it won’t be put up for a Pulitzer or recommended by Oprah, I think it’s a great idea, not just for himself, but for our jeopardized industry. I got ahold of Fat and talked a bit about it.

What inspired the making of this book?
“I had been thinking about making a BMX book for several years actually… At one point it was on my list of lifetime goals to do a book through a big publishing company and have it sold in bookstores around the world. Over the years though, as I was analyzing my intentions and goals more, I reevaluated that one and decided to scale it back. The work versus reward just wasn’t there, and it didn’t interest me as much anymore.

As a photographer trying to make a living through BMX I looked at several options and ways to make a book profitable, and none of them seemed very good. Then I took a step back even further…the real reason I wanted to make a book of BMX photos was just so I could have a dope ass collection of my favorite shots and so I could look back and see who I had the opportunity to shoot with all around the world over the years. So I figured if I made a book for myself the way I wanted it, I didn’t have to make any money from it for it to be worth my time.

That’s why I went with the print to order system through Blurb. I literally printed one book for myself, and that’s all I have…and I don’t plan to order any more for myself or friends or anything. If I don’t sell a single book, I don’t care. My ego may be slightly hurt because no one was interested in my work, but whatever, haha. If I do sell some, I’ll make a few dollars per copy. The main thing is that I have a book I can look back on years from now, and I’m stoked on that!”

BMX Photography Book by Fat Tony

What made you choose Blurb?
“I’ve used Blurb in the past and had great results from it. The first book I ever made was from a trip I took to Ecuador a few years ago. I came back with a ton of travel photos that I was psyched on, so I put together a book with them. The following year I went to Africa and made another book, then the year after I did the same from a trip to Southeast Asia. Blurb lets you design a book the way you want, which is awesome… My background in graphic design helps a lot with that. I used Adobe InDesign to lay out the entire thing, then I just have to upload a PDF to the Blurb site.

With that said, if anyone wants to buy any of those other travel books, they are on my Blurb bookstore as well. Or if you just want to look through them, you can preview the entire thing on the Blurb site. I’ve never promoted those or anything because they don’t have anything to do with BMX. They were purely done so I could have some good memories sitting on my coffee table.”

Is flatland your favorite genre to shoot?
“I don’t have a favorite type of riding, and I really don’t have a favorite discipline of BMX to shoot either. On a personal level, these days I ride more skateparks that anything… As far as flatland goes, I feel like it’s the discipline of BMX that gets the least attention, so being a media guy or whatever, I always try to show flatland as much as possible to help it get some of the recognition it deserves.”

Are the photos previously unseen or have they been published?
“All of the riding photos have been published before—either in magazines, on Web sites, or in the annual flatland calendar I put out through Flatland Fuel. Some of the lifestyle and portrait shots haven’t been seen before though. I kind of look at this book as a “best of” type collection, so I wasn’t trying to come out with new work necessarily, and I didn’t shoot anything specifically for the book.”

BMX Photography Book by Fat Tony

Do you feel that BMX is lacking more mainstream outlets, such as books and calendars?
“I definitely think that any time BMX is put in front of people it has the potential to help the industry grow. For example, if a kid that had never been exploded to BMX saw a calendar or book at his school’s book fair, a local book store, or a library, he may get that spark to pick up a bike, or look at his bike differently. So yeah, I think more mainstream outlets like that could help the industry grow, for sure. However, I hate seeing mainstream media showing BMX photos that aren’t shot by a BMX rider. You know the kind of photos I’m talking about…a dude coming down from airing a quarterpipe, horribly timed tailwhips, etc. I cringe every time I see those kinds of photos that somehow make their way into mainstream media!”

Do you think it would help BMX as an industry to branch out in those respects?
“I don’t necessarily think the BMX industry needs to branch out into that type of media though… It’s not like a bike company should make it a priority to make a calendar or book and get it into Barnes & Noble. That’s not their business. They should keep doing what they do best, which is making bikes. I do think it’s up to photographers like me to reach out to the mainstream media and help them portray BMX more accurately. That’s something I’ve been working on a lot and will continue to work on.”

Check out Fat’s books here, his website and his blog.

fat tony flatland book

Photo Portfolio On Ridebmx.com

Around three weeks ago I sent Fat Tony at Ridebmx.com a set of 12 digi shots from throughout the year, Fat set me up with a Ridebmx Photo Portfolio.

I had so much fun putting this set together. These are spots from all over Fresno Ca. Hope you enjoy!