The Story of the Most Viewed Photo Ever

Do you recognize this photograph? Well, this photo did not changed the world but was pretty much the first view of the world for millions of people across.

The default wallpaper for Windows, this photo called “Bliss”, this is a landscape in Sonoma County, California. Taken by Charles O’Rear, photographer with National Geographic for 25 years, and now spends his time photographing wine making across the world.

Every MS Windows user will be knowing the default Windows wallpaper, Bliss (The blue sky, the green hill and small white clouds, remember? OK, look at the pic above, wink…). The wallpaper which was introduced for Windows XP, as default,  is pretty popular among Windows users.

Going to the history of this wallpaper, this photograph was shot by Charles O’ Rear, who works for a company named HighTurn. This photograph was taken in 1996 – which is around five years before XP was released. O’ Rear wanted to photograph the winemaking on that hill but, unfortunately at that time there was no grapevines on that hill.

The photograph Bliss, inspired a Windows XP’s advertising campaign called “Yes You Can” and thus the photograph entered into the XP home screen.

Later, in November 2006, artist collaboration Goldin & Senneby re-photographed the same site, from the same location. This time, it was full of Grapevines. Check the pic below.

Goldin & Senneby re-photographed the same site, from the same location. This time, it was full of Grapevines


Bliss is the name of a Windows bitmap image included with Microsoft Windows XP, produced from a photograph of a landscape in Sonoma County, California, southeast of Sonoma Valley near the site of the old Clover Stornetta Inc. Dairy. The image contains rolling green hills and a blue sky with stratocumulus and cirrus clouds. The image is used as the default computer wallpaper for the “Luna” theme of Windows XP.

The photograph was taken by the professional photographer Charles O’Rear, a resident of St. Helena, Napa County, for digital-design company HighTurn. O’Rear has also taken photographs for Bill Gates’ private Seattle stock photography company Corbis and Napa Valley photographs for the May 1979 National Geographic Magazine article Napa, Valley of the Vine. Although O’Rear’s focus was on photographing winemaking in the Napa Valley, the hill in Bliss didn’t have grapevines when the photograph was taken in 1996. The photograph was taken aside the highway 12/121, and by a hand held view camera. The approximate location is 3050 Fremont Dr. (Sonoma Hwy.), Sonoma, CA.

O’Rear’s photograph inspired Windows XP’s $200 million advertising campaign “Yes you can”, by the San Francisco division of New York City advertising company McCann-Erickson. The campaign was launched on television on ABC (America) during one of ABC Sports’s Monday Night Football games of the 2001 NFL season. The television commercials included Madonna’s Ray of Light song, whose TV rights cost Microsoft about $14 million.

In November 2006, artist collaboration Goldin+Senneby visited the site in Sonoma Valley where the Bliss image was taken, re-photographing the same view ten years later. Their work After Microsoft was first shown in the exhibition “Paris was Yesterday” at gallery La Vitrine in April 2007 and has later been exhibited at Galeria Vermelho, São Paulo, and 300m3 in Gothenburg.
In February 2007, in the collective exhibition Accrochage Vaud 2007 at Espace Arlaud in Lausanne, Sébastien Mettraux, a Swiss artist showed a photograph titled “Bliss”, after Bill Gates, 2006. Mettraux, who lives and works near the Vallée de Joux, explained that it was taken in Les Esserts-de-Rives, Switzerland. Read more…

Photographer Charles O’Rear.

Charles “Chuck” O’Rear (born 1941) is an American photographer. His image, Bliss, is included in Windows XP. O’Rear started his career with the daily newspapers Emporia Gazette, The Kansas City Star, Los Angeles Times, worked for National Geographic magazine, and was part of Environmental Protection Agency’s DOCUMERICA project. He began photographing winemaking in 1978. Since 1998 O’Rear has been associated with Corbis, a Seattle based stock photography company owned by co-founder and chairman of Microsoft, Bill Gates.

O’Rear was born in Butler, Missouri in 1941 and first handled the camera Brownie Box when he was 10. As a child, he desired to be a pilot and got his license at the age of 16. He attended State Teachers College and started his career as a sports reporter for the Butler Daily Democrat. In 1961, he joined the daily newspaper Emporia Gazette as a photographer, and in 1962 The Kansas City Star as a reporter-photographer and, in 1966, he moved to Los Angeles to join as a staff photographer for the Los Angeles Times.

In 1971, National Geographic magazine hired O’Rear to document the lives of Russian villagers in Alaska who called themselves “Old Believers.” In 1978, the magazine sent him to Napa Valley to photograph the wine region. Since then, O’Rear became interested in wine photography and shifted his base to the valley to photograph the region. In 1985, he traveled to Indonesia for another assignment for the magazine where he carried 500 rolls of film and took 15,000 photos. O’Rear has appeared on National Geographic magazine cover twice; once as “Bird Man” flying an ultra light aircraft and later for the other photograph shown him holding a computer chip in his hand. O’Rear had been associated with the magazine for nearly 25 years (1971–1995) and has photographed in 30 countries and every state in USA. For the magazine, he photographed 25 articles; ranging various topics including the Mexican Riviera, Siberia, Canada, Silicon Valley and Napa Valley. While working with the National Geographic, O’Rear mastered the use of small strobes and taught the subject for 11 years at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshop.

During 1972 to 1975, O’Rear was part of Environmental Protection Agency’s DOCUMERICA project which aimed at “photographically documenting the subjects of environmental concern in America during the 1970s” along with 70 other photographers including Bill Strode, Danny Lyon and John H. White. O’Rear is credited with the most photographs in the final DOCUMERICA collection. In 1980, he co-founded the photo agency, “Westlight”, with Craig Aurness, which was acquired in 1998 by Corbis. In 1998, Corbis sent O’Rear around the world for a year to photograph major wine regions. Read more…

View Charles O’Rear portfolio

Man behind famous Windows XP wallpaper wishes he’d negotiated a better licensing deal

The default Windows XP wallpaper containing rolling green hills, blue sky and fluffy white clouds may be more recognisable than the Mona Lisa, but it earned its photographer a pittance.

Charles O’Rear, now 73, says he wishes he negotiated a better deal with Microsoft when he licensed it to accompany the launch of the operating system more than 13 years ago.

While he won’t reveal how much he was paid for the photograph, a stock image library item at the time, he said had it been licensed to earn even just a fraction of a cent per copy of Windows XP sold he would’ve earned much more than he did under the deal he struck.

“If I had known how popular it would become and how many computers it would’ve been on I should’ve negotiated a [better] deal and said, ‘Just give me a fraction of a cent for every time it’s seen’ and that would’ve been a nice arrangement,” O’Rear said.

“It was not a royalty type of situation,” O’Rear added. “It was a flat ‘here’s what we’re paying you, thank you very much and let’s get it on the [computer] screen and get moving'”.

Technology commentators recently estimated that O’Rear’s photograph, which Microsoft chose in 2001 as the default wallpaper for its XP operating system, had been viewed by no less than 1 billion people. If all 1 billion purchased a copy of XP (they didn’t) — and Microsoft paid O’Rear 1 cent per copy sold — he would’ve made $10 million.

O’Rear is in Australia this week care of Microsoft to promote the fact that support and security updates are ending for XP, and that the estimated 1.5 million Australians still using it should upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8 to stay secure against malicious software, or malware. Read more…

Download high resolution and big size Bliss wallpaper (600dpi, 4510 x 3627 px):

- 1,120 -