The location of one of the world’s most iconic photos has been found.
The popular Windows XP ‘Bliss’ wallpaper, which features a green hill against a sunny blue sky, was a staple of office and computer room decor in the 2000s. It was the default wallpaper for Windows XP computers to run from 2001 to 2007.
While many may have instinctively thought it was a fake—almost quietly to be from our chaotic world—it’s actually just outside Sonoma, just north of San Francisco, California.
The photo, which has been viewed by more than a billion people, was taken by photographer Charles O’Rear on a Friday afternoon in January, 1996, who spotted the shot while driving to meet his then-girlfriend. He said the image was never edited but was sold to Microsoft as it was.
But since then, the image has appeared “everywhere” including in people’s homes, offices, and even the White House and the Kremlin.
Pictured above is the hill in Sonoma, California, as photographed by Microsoft in 2001 and seen again today. The photographer says the photo was never edited and was taken with a conventional camera
The Hill was photographed in 1996. Photographer Charles O’Rear says he discovered the view while he was driving to meet his girlfriend and jumped out of the car to take the photo. He can’t remember if the clouds were there before he took the picture
Above is the hill pictured today. It appears that a vineyard has now been placed in front of it and some trees have grown behind it, making it difficult to recreate the view
The hill off Carneros Highway outside Sonoma, California. This is one of the most dangerous roads in the area
Mr. O’Rear explained where the photo was Taken to Slate Almost 23 years after the program was released.
Windows XP was used by hundreds of millions of people when it was first released and has received critical acclaim for its ease of use.
It was eventually replaced by other systems such as Windows Vista and Windows Server in 2008 as well as the arrival of the Apple Mac Book in 2006.
But by 2014, when Microsoft finally stopped supporting the system, it was said that about 300 million computers were still running Windows XP.
Today, about 0.1 percent of all computers globally still use the system. Among the celebrities still using it is Vladimir Putin, according to reports.
O’Rear, who still lives in Napa Valley near the famous hills, revealed how he took the photo.
He said: “There is a time of year here north of San Francisco where after it rains the grass turns green and I know the chances of finding beautiful hillsides are really good.
Every Friday afternoon, I would go to visit my girlfriend near San Francisco.
On this very day in January, as he was driving this winding little road—what I call a country road—there he was.
(I thought) Oh my God, the grass is perfect, it’s green, the sun is shining, and there are some clouds.
There were probably no clouds, and by the time I parked my car, by the time I set up the camera, the clouds probably came in because everything changed so quickly at that point.
“Now, I set the camera up, and here comes the clouds and I do a frame, I make a transition to the next photo—which we don’t do digital anymore—and it takes care of everything.”
O’Rear said he took four photos of the hill that day which were later acquired by Microsoft.
The price wasn’t disclosed, but it was so expensive that none of the usual courier services — such as FedEx — would carry it.
In the end, Mr. O’Rear had to be driven to the company’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington, to deliver it in person.
Photo taken with Mamiya RZ67 camera with Fuji Film color and tripod.
Charles O’Rear said he was paid so much for the image by Microsoft that he had to travel to their headquarters to deliver it in person.
Pictured above is Carneros Highway near Hill Place
Despite claims that the image was altered, O’Rear said this was not the case, but that he used Fuji film which can help improve colors.
Speaking of the impact the image had, he said, “I had no idea where it was going. I suspect that the engineers or anyone involved in building Windows XP had no idea how successful it was.”
It is everywhere as we all know, and we see it in many places.
You’ve seen him in the White House Situation Room, and maybe a news photo, too. I’ve seen him in footage of the Kremlin where they’re giving interviews.
“Anyone from the age of 15 onwards will remember this photo for the rest of their lives.”
The hill is now being plowed and a vineyard is now being built in the front of the lot. Trees also grew behind the hill.