Despite its surreal colors and perfect light, the desktop background that came with your shiny new Windows XP system (circa 2002) is a real image from the Napa Valley in California.
Photographer Charles O’Rear pulled over on Highway 121 and snapped the pic in the winter of 1996. He claims the image was not digitally manipulated in any way, despite years of speculation that it was computer-generated or a composite of multiple photos. The widespread proliferation of Windows XP makes it one of the most viewed and recognizable photographs of all time. The actual location has since become a somewhat less photogenic vineyard.
And while a non-disclosure agreement prevents O’Rear from revealing how much Microsoft paid him to license the pic, he told the Napa Valley Register it’s “one of the largest amounts ever paid to a living, working photographer.”
In a related story, I should take more photos.
Image courtesy of Everywhere.