Saturday, March 29, 2014

Wallpaper, bunnies and the need for lettuce

As I sat pondering a photograph of kate last week that someone had sent to it dawned on me that the source image may not have only been viewed millions of times, but possibly more often than almost any other photograph in history. Could this actually be true?

A little bit of research showed that said image of kate in fact did not get close to being the most viewed. What did top the list - maybe it was a historical image? Maybe something that changed the world for better or worse? Maybe something that tugged at our heart-strings? Or something so important that we couldn't stop looking at it time and time again?

Then again, maybe not ... Bliss the photograph chosen by Microsoft to be the default wallpaper of Windows XP showing rolling green hills has reportedly been viewed by over 1 billion people since it first emerged in 2002 and is the most recognizable and widely viewed image in history!
O'Rear's Bliss: just because we really need to see it one more time

What I found funny while researching (i.e. googling with my two spare minutes last Wednesday) was a piece in the Sydney Morning Herald titled: "Man behind famous Windows XP wallpaper wishes he'd negotiated a better licensing deal"!

Oh dear, you know where this is going ... 
Charles O'Rear in front of his image Bliss

According to the SMH: The default Windows XP wallpaper containing rolling green hills, blue sky and fluffy white clouds may be more recognisable than the Mona Lisa, but it earned its photographer a pittance. Charles O'Rear, now 73, says he wishes he negotiated a better deal with Microsoft when he licensed it to accompany the launch of the operating system more than 13 years ago ... "If I had known how popular it would become and how many computers it would've been on I should've negotiated a [better] deal and said, 'Just give me a fraction of a cent for every time it's seen' and that would've been a nice arrangement," O'Rear said. 

Although he didn't reveal exactly how much he was paid for the photo, he did reveal how it was taken and responded to accusations it was digitally altered. Despite many thinking the photograph was shot in Ireland, O'Rear actually captured it whilst driving through Sonoma county in California on the side of the highway. On the particular day in January, 1996 he was off to see his then girlfriend, a storm had just passed through and he got out his medium-format Mamiya RZ67 camera. "Here were a few white clouds remaining and out goes the camera and there is the photograph. Bingo!" O'Rear said. Microsoft later discovered it thanks to a stock photography agency he uploaded it to that Microsoft founder Bill Gates decided to form in 1989, called Corbis. One major reason for starting the agency was Gates' belief that people would someday decorate their homes with a revolving display of digital artwork using digital frames, according to the New York Times

When I look at the image, I actually think of Richards Adams' Watership Down. I picture the rabbits at the bottom of the hill, thinking whether they should develop a warren nearby and debating the safety of being so close to Californian wine country and the invading marauders known as "celebs".
Bigwig: "I'm not so sure about the new doe"

As for whether the photograph was photoshopped, O'Rear said: "A lot of people ask was it digital manipulation? [The answer is] no." Microsoft did, however, make a few minor changes to it, such as cropping the left side of the frame and altering the color of the hillside to make it a much more vivid green and um adding the rabbits. So particularly when you are driving through Sonoma County ... Slow down, Observe, Shoot and Submit! And remember not to let people take your images without paying you vast sums of lettuce.

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