The photo Microsoft used for the Windows XP default wallpaper is (mostly) untouched

Windows XP support ends one week from today but, as we learned, the 12-year old operating system will still be used by a ton of PCs worldwide after that day has come and gone. That also means many PCs will still have the Windows XP default wallpaper, depicting a location of green rolling hills, running in the background.

But where did that idyllic view come from? As CNet Australia reports, the original photo that Microsoft used as the basis for the wallpaper was taken back in 1996 by photographer Charles O'Rear using a Mamiya RZ67 film camera. The actual location is in the wine country of Northern California (you can check out the exact spot on Bing Maps).

O'Rear sent the photo, which he titled "Bliss", to the Corbis stock image licensing company in 1999, which happens to be owned by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. O'Rear made no alterations to "Bliss" at all when he submitted it to the service. Later, Microsoft paid O'Rear for the rights to use the image as the Windows XP wallpaper. Both O'Rear and Microsoft won't comment on how much the company paid for "Bliss" but it is believed to be one of the largest amounts ever for a single photo.

The end result is that "Bliss" has become one of the most viewed images in the entire world. Microsoft did crop the original photo and boost the color of the green hills for its use as Windows XP wallpaper but aside from that the image looks just like the original photograph.

Source: CNet via WinBeta | Image via Microsoft

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I live 30 minutes away and have driven past this a hundred times and never knew this was the place. There are literally thousands of places in the Northern California wine country where you could take a picture like this.

The next time I drive by I will have to stop and take a picture and do a comparison just for kicks.

Didn't this site have a article about this photo about a year or so ago as well...

tech sites write new articles about bliss all the time.

"The end result is that "Bliss" has become one of the most viewed images in the entire world"

Yep,
I viewed it once and then changed it!

Personally,
It's about as dull to look at as watching the grass grow in the picture, which obviously isn't going to happen. :)

It's hard to believe this image is "almost untouched". I've always though it is CGI. The colors are absolutely hideous. Then again, the entire Windows XP default theme is.

Seeing this wallpaper reminds me of the Teleatubbies version that was so popular.

This was at a time when everyone still hated XP and all its 'horrible' UI changes. (You know, exactly the same response people had to Metro design concepts just a couple years ago that everyone is adopting.)

What is old is new and what is new is old. :)

Side Note with regard to early XP hate:
I can still remember users being furious that they couldn't install their soundcard and modem on the same IRQ with WinXP, when it 'worked just fine' under Win9x. Of course they didn't understand why Win9x locked up when they were playing music and connecting to the Internet. (Sometimes users have to be forced to do things the right way, even if they scream and kick and don't understand why it is better.)

I took the 1440p image and set it as my current default wallpaper (8.1 ProWMC) - before, I used the rotating snowy owl wallpaper set I call "Hedwig's Relatives". (Yes - as in Harry Potter's owl. While Scholastic - the publisher of record for the Harry Potter novels in the US - is known historically for publishing pre-teen books, they HAVE done publishing of teen-targeting content before, such as several sports-related biographies, including Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar.)

Too bad windows-7 didn't come with a similarly tranquil default wallpaper. Will Windows-9 come with a tranquil default wallpaper?

McKay said,
That's the untouched one? It didn't mention it so I thought it was just the finished version.

Should be. All Microsoft did to the image was boost the green color.

what does over exposed have to do with untouched... exposure is in the photography not touch up. and it was slightly crop for screen size, I wouldn't count cropping a editing as such, resized is pretty much the same as the cropping and doesn't really affect the photo. sharpening is something you pretty much have to do for screen presentation.

HawkMan said,
what does over exposed have to do with untouched... exposure is in the photography not touch up. and it was slightly crop for screen size, I wouldn't count cropping a editing as such, resized is pretty much the same as the cropping and doesn't really affect the photo. sharpening is something you pretty much have to do for screen presentation.
Resizing is the same as cropping? None affect the photo? Are you serious? The overexposure was done as a post-effect, just look at the actual original posted up.

Andre S. said,
Resizing is the same as cropping? None affect the photo? Are you serious? The overexposure was done as a post-effect, just look at the actual original posted up.


That same as they don't affect the photo quality. Cropping removes an unnecessary frame and may correct a wrong rotation of the photo, resize just changes the res, which doesn't change the photo, just makes it a lower res.

HawkMan said,


That same as they don't affect the photo quality. Cropping removes an unnecessary frame and may correct a wrong rotation of the photo, resize just changes the res, which doesn't change the photo, just makes it a lower res.

They both necessarily lose information, cropping by removing parts of the image, scaling by resampling. Plus sharpening and post-process overexposure are obviously image modifications, and I didn't even mention jpeg compression. Anyway, the original picture is right there posted by Dot Matrix above, it's a high-resolution 25MB TIFF, and it looks very obviously different from that 800x600 jpeg picture, so you're entirely wrong. I don't even know why you're arguing this, do you enjoy empty rhetoric for its own sake?

I'd actually like to find a 1440p version of this wallpaper (that's not obviously Photoshopped from the original file from XP).

Boo Berry said,
I'd actually like to find a 1440p version of this wallpaper (that's not obviously Photoshopped from the original file from XP).

Ask and you shall receive. As far as I can tell, this is the original unedited image. I found it a while back, and I can't remember the source for it. It was listed with other shots of the same hillside. It's a 25MB TIFF image.

EDIT: Looks like I was beaten to it!