Did you know the photograph reported to be the “most viewed ever” was taken on film using a Mamiya RZ67? If you ever had a Windows PC with the XP operating system installed, you’ll recognize this image instantly.
Above Image Credit: The Famous “Bliss” by Charles O’Rear | © Ian Burt/Flickr
As first seen in a Digital Camera World article written by Hannah Rooke, this photograph was taken by photographer Charles O’Rear, also known as Chuck. It was titled “Bliss” and found itself as the default wallpaper in the Windows XP operating system, which lasted from 2001 until 2014 before its official end of support (Tech Radar).
Whether or not this image is one of the “most viewed ever” is hard to prove, but a lot of people are indeed familiar with the rolling green hills and striking blue sky that was the Sonoma Highway in California in 1996.
Charles O’Rear captured the location for Bliss near his home north of San Francisco, where now instead of the scene of an empty green hill, a vineyard has taken up residence. A working photographer living in the heart of wine country, Napa Valley, O’Rear has published several books about the area and the wine that is produced in it. Learn more about O’Rear in this interview by the Culture Trip here or see his work on PhotoShelter here.
As shared by Rooke, Shoot the Rabbit featured O’Rear in an interview on Youtube.
Rooke talks about how the image was widely thought to have been photoshopped and sure to have been taken on digital. However, she reports that not only was the image taken on film, but it is displayed exactly how it was developed, with no post-processing.
However, Artsy notes in their article about the image that “Microsoft later admitted to enhancing the green and cropping the image”.
So we know the camera, but any curious analogue photographer might ask, what film was used? In the Shoot the Rabbit interview, Charles says he used a Fujifilm stock with “brilliant colors” but also says the “remarkable” lenses of the RZ67 helped his photograph stand out.
“I think if I had shot it with 35mm, it would not have had nearly the same effect” – Charles O’Rear
Microsoft bought the original rights to his image and the story of delivering the negative is charming. With no courier that would take on the original image due to the high value the company placed on it, O’Rear says Microsoft bought him a plane ticket to hand deliver it personally to the company.
As the default desktop wallpaper for the Windows XP system, O’Rear’s photograph has been seen by a tremendous amount of people. Some publications have wondered, why this photo? What made Microsoft select this image?
Amateur Photographer takes a guess:
“O’Rear has never been told, but the fact that it’s attractive, easy on the eye, and doesn’t detract from other items that might be on the screen are all contributing factors. It may also have been chosen because it’s an unusually inviting image of a verdant landscape and one that promotes a sense of wellbeing in desk-bound computer users.” – Amateur Photographer
Artsy offers a more practical guess at the answer. They note it matches the theme colors of Windows XP perfectly.
Whatever the reason, it’s heartwarming to think that so many people share the same experience connected to a photograph and even more delightful to learn about how the image was created.
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