World’s Most Viewed Image Location

In January 1996, Charles O’Rear was driving through Napa and Sonoma counties in California and photographed a green, lush hillside on the side of the highway 12/121. O’Rear took the photograph with a hand-held medium-format Mamiya RZ67 camera. He submitted the photo to Westlight, which later merged with Corbis.

Microsoft picked O’Rear’s image for its new operating system Windows XP in 2001. Microsoft named the image as Bliss and used it as the default wallpaper for the default theme of its Windows XP operating system published in 2001. With the success of Windows XP and the photograph being part of the operating system, it became one of the most viewed images in history. Microsoft chose the image because “it illustrates the experiences Microsoft strives to provide customers (freedom, possibility, calmness, warmth, etc.).” O’Rear was later reported to have said in an interview that he didn’t expect the shot would become the “most viewed image on the planet”.

As for the Dutch edition of the operating system, the name of the image is Ireland, it was mistakenly believed to be the location of the image. Before the real location of photograph was revealed, it had been speculated with various locations including France, England, Switzerland, the North Otago region of New Zealand, southeastern Washington, South West Kerry in Ireland or even the south of Tübingen, Germany. The image was alleged to have been digitally manipulated to enhance its effects and also to be a computer-generated scene, assembled using Adobe Photoshop from a number of different images.

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Although O’Rear denied the claim and reported that it was submitted to Corbis without making any change to it, Microsoft cropped the image on the left side of the frame and altered the color of the hillside to a much more vivid green.

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