Normally I wouldn’t put a silly photo manipulation like this in my professional portfolio, but this one turned out to get a lot more attention than I expected. It even caused me to accidentally win a contest for a free pack of underwear! Needless to say, winning underwear is the greatest sign of success.
I’m titling this photo manipulation “Patriotic Underwear Guy on Giant Bald Eagle,” which I’ll abbreviate to just “Guy on Eagle” from now on in this article. I’ve made two versions of Guy on Eagle, and the second (and I think much improved) version is the picture you see above.
There are multiple weird things I’ll need to explain here, so first let me describe the context behind this composition.
In September 2018, Hurricane Florence smacked the southeastern coast of the United States. In the midst of the powerful storm, a Reuters photographer caught on camera a long-haired man standing defiantly in the middle of a street wearing nothing but briefs and holding an American flag blowing in the hurricane’s continuous gust. This patriotic daredevil’s name is Lane Pittman. (He did a similar stunt during Hurricane Matthew in the previous year.)
On the social media website Reddit, there’s a section called r/PhotoshopBattles where photographs are posted for graphic artists to manipulate in funny ways. One day on r/PhotoshopBattles, I noticed a recent thread for that photo of Pittman in the hurricane. I had nothing else to do at the time, so that’s when I started making Guy on Eagle.
Creating the Composition
I made both versions of Guy on Eagle using the image-editing software Adobe Photoshop.
The original photo of Pittman had a patriotic mood to it, so I decided to amplify the Americanness by making the flag-wielding Pittman surf on a giant bald eagle. The winds of the hurricane in the original photo made his long hair and the flag he was holding look like they were flowing in the breeze as he rode upon a jumbo bird.
In the first version of Guy on Eagle, the image of the bald eagle (just a normal-sized one) came from a public domain photo I found on Wikimedia Commons.
For extra cheesiness, I also put in the sun with a fake lens flare.
Submitting to r/PhotoshopBattles
Guy on Eagle was my first submission to the PhotoshopBattles subreddit. When I was creating it, I actually wasn’t expecting it to get so popular, so I didn’t put much time and effort into it, especially since it was only meant as a stupid joke.
I was also aware that Reddit’s voting system isn’t quite meritocratic, because it usually favors people who post early in a thread as long as the quality isn’t too terrible. So, I had to hurry to make this photo manipulation if I wanted to get it noticed on Reddit. (I think I was a little too late anyway.)
For these reasons, the first version of Guy on Eagle is a little sloppy by my standards, and I don’t think it represents the best potential of my graphic design skills. That’s why I remade it later.
Nonetheless, a lot of people were greatly entertained by the first version, which was why I was motivated to make an even better second version. Guy on Eagle (or “‘CHARGE!’” as I had labeled it in the Reddit thread) turned out to be one of the top-voted submissions in the thread. On the picture-sharing website Imgur, where the image itself is hosted for Reddit, it accumulated more than 14,000 views.
UFM’s Photo Contest
In both the original hurricane photo and most of the submitted photo manipulations on Reddit, Lane Pittman was wearing blue briefs that were visibly branded by UFM (Underwear For Men). Due to the publicity of the Reddit thread that accumulated over 34,000 total up-votes featuring a person who happened to be wearing UFM apparel, it evidently got the attention of marketers at UFM.
On UFM’s Facebook page, they started hosting a three-round contest that took 10 of the highest-rated compositions from the r/PhotoshopBattles thread—including mine (referred to as “Charge”)—and their Facebook followers voted on their favorites. The finalists in one round would advance onto the next as the rest got eliminated.
Ultimately, people voted for my composition through all three rounds, and UFM declared me the winner of the contest! For the prize, UFM offered to send me a pack of underwear in my size worth $50 in value.
People on Reddit and on Facebook left comments about Guy on Eagle, including:
- “This one is my favorite. I don’t know why, but it just is. Good work!”
- “It has the most America, I feel it too my dude”
- “I think what really takes it to the next level is the perfectly placed lens flare.”
- “It’s hilarious!”
- “Did he use the eagle to ride all the way to Mordor?”
- “👌🏻good 👌🏻shit”
- “ABSOLUTELY AWESOME!!!!!!”
Despite the success of the original version of Guy on Eagle, I personally felt I could do it better, so I did. Unlike the old version which was rushed, the new version was created at my own pace, and so I was able to make it the way that I really wanted it to be.
Of course, now the r/PhotoshopBattles thread has already passed its peak and the UFM contest has already ended, so my new version probably won’t get as much attention… So, please feel free to share this image wherever you want!
The new version uses some different assets:
- The bald eagle comes from a photo taken by Becky Matsubara via Flickr.
- The sky background comes from a picture provided on Pixabay.
- The glaring sun comes from a Photoshop brush in a set from Brusheezy.
Got a photo you’d like me to manipulate, whether for a funny or serious purpose? Let me know!
To read about other projects I worked on involving photographic manipulation, see EON Sports VR or Robot Aviation.
To read about another artistic illustration I made, see Self Portrait.