Photographer tells story behind Windows XP desktop photo

The photographer behind the iconic Windows XP desktop photo has revealed how he took his world-famous photo Bliss. Its resplendent colours and sheer perfection has led many people to assume it was Photoshopped. But in a mini-documentary sponsored by Microsoft (below), photographer Charles O’Rear says the photo was completely analogue.

According to O’Rear, Microsoft employees had long been guessing about the origin of the photo, and whether or not it had been retouched. Most of the engineers at Microsoft believed the photo to have been Photoshopped, while others speculated it was taken near Seattle.

In fact the famous image was shot on a hill in the Napa valley, north of the San Francisco Bay. “After we get the rains, and during the rains, the grasses turn green. And I know the chances of finding these beautiful hillsides are really good,” says O’Rear in the interview.

“Probably the most-viewed image of the world.”

As the default desktop background for Windows XP, Charles O’Rear’s photo was seen by over a billion Windows users since the operating system arrived on October 25, 2001. The photographer himself seems amazed how often he still sees his own photo:

“We see in so many places. I’ve seen it in the Situation Room in the White House. […] Of course they they have to erase all the sensitive information from the screen. Well, there’s Windows XP.”

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced the retirement of Windows XP, and with it the famous Bliss photograph. As of April 8, Windows XP users no longer receive Windows updates. Between 17% and 28% of computers still run on Windows XP, notably government computer around the world.

Feature image: The new XP background via Shutterstock / Copyright: Mike Donenfeld

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