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August 29, 2011 5:50 AM   Subscribe

Ever wonder where the Windows XP default wallpaper came from? The man behind the camera is American photographer Charles O’Rear. Don’t let his name fool you into thinking that the photo was in fact taken in Ireland. Bliss, as it turns out, is in.....
posted by KevinSkomsvold (80 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
hey, cool! Thanks for posting this.
posted by rebent at 5:53 AM on August 29, 2011


Neat! Now I'm tempted to start replacing the default wallpaper at work with this less lively version of Bliss...just as a gentle reminder that XP will be fully retired by 2013...
posted by samsara at 5:57 AM on August 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


I've always been annoyed by the extreme compression applied to that otherwise nice image. Why they couldn't spare the few extra kilobytes to show it properly is beyond me.
posted by odinsdream at 5:57 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


nice. I always assumed it was a digital illustration. But that was compounded by the generally bright bubbly large initial look in XP
posted by the mad poster! at 5:59 AM on August 29, 2011


Note to website - if you make a photo in an article clickable, people expect to see a larger version, not a thumbnail.
posted by davebush at 6:09 AM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Bliss. Okay, I get that. So why the hell did they pick one market in which to call it something else? And why the Dutch in particular? And why for them call it Ireland when the image has nothing to do with Ireland?

I am confuse. This is so Microsoft.
posted by Naberius at 6:18 AM on August 29, 2011


No clue, but I'll bet "bliss" means something different in Dutch.

And yeah, I always thought it was an illustration, or at least a heavily manipulated photo.
posted by gjc at 6:27 AM on August 29, 2011


Note to website - if you make a photo in an article clickable, people expect to see a larger version, not a thumbnail.

I think the rights to the larger version are quite expensive.
posted by memebake at 6:31 AM on August 29, 2011


Taken with a medium format camera, the most surprising fact about the image is that O’Rear claims that it wasn’t digitally manipulated.
Perhaps...
However, that doesn't mean it wasn't subject to some filtering, both at time of exposure as well as during processing. UV filtering. Polarizing filter. Etc.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:32 AM on August 29, 2011


I always thought it was a photo taken from wherever they harvest green Kool-Aid.
posted by p3t3 at 6:32 AM on August 29, 2011


It doesn't help that the "today" comparison photos are all overcast and grey.
posted by curious nu at 6:33 AM on August 29, 2011


For some reason, I always thought it was a photo of the Palouse. In fact, I had the Palouse on my travel list precisely because of that photo.
posted by fremen at 6:34 AM on August 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


No clue, but I'll bet "bliss" means something different in Dutch.

I'm quite sure 'bliss' means something different in Amsterdam.
posted by infini at 6:38 AM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Related: the quest to find the location of the Windows XP Autumn wallpaper.
posted by fremen at 6:39 AM on August 29, 2011 [12 favorites]


I always figured it was a golf course, and maybe altered to bring out the green even more.
posted by misha at 6:43 AM on August 29, 2011


"The photo was taken in 1996, years before Windows XP launched, and before the area was converted into a vineyard. In fact, a photo taken 10 years later from exactly the same spot where Bliss was shot, shows a disappointingly, dreary view:"

And then they show a picture of the vineyard in ... uh ... WINTER, which is OF COURSE dreary. Take that picture in the middle of August, and the pure green of the grape vine leaves will overwhelm your senses.
posted by incessant at 6:45 AM on August 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I always expect the Teletubbies to come running over the hill.
posted by The Deej at 6:56 AM on August 29, 2011 [13 favorites]


what the hell? I was genuinely thinking about that picture for probably the first time in my life this morning. Wondering where it was, who took it... Then I check out metafilter and there it all is!
posted by Greener Backyards at 6:57 AM on August 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I could swear I saw an article about this on here before (although it was much earlier than the article linked in the FPP, so not a double). Anyway, interesting story. I always like to know more about iconic photos and the circumstances of their creation.
posted by TedW at 7:00 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Charles O’Rear. Don’t let his name fool you into thinking that the photo was in fact taken in Ireland

That is not at all what "O'Rear" was making me think of.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:01 AM on August 29, 2011 [8 favorites]


However, that doesn't mean it wasn't subject to some filtering, both at time of exposure as well as during processing. UV filtering. Polarizing filter. Etc.

Also, the highly saturated colors and fact it was shot on a medium format camera make me wonder if O'Rear was using Velvia film.
posted by TedW at 7:06 AM on August 29, 2011


I'm proud to say, I've never seen that picture.

This picture, however, was not shot in California.
posted by tomswift at 7:09 AM on August 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm proud to say, I've never seen that picture.

How do you know without having seen it?
posted by ian1977 at 7:11 AM on August 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Take that picture in the middle of August, and the pure green of the grape vine leaves will overwhelm your senses.

More like this.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:12 AM on August 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


To give it a try yourself, just go to Google Maps and enter the following coordinates: 38.248966, -122.410269.

Or just click here?
posted by swift at 7:18 AM on August 29, 2011



Likewise, The Deej, I've alway s called that wallpaper Teletubbyland -- which for years was apparently where all new computers came from.
 
posted by Herodios at 7:18 AM on August 29, 2011


The background is nyancat. The background has always been nyancat. Go about your business citizen. GO NOW.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:24 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"How do you know without having seen it?"

Seen what?
posted by tomswift at 7:27 AM on August 29, 2011


ian1977: "I'm proud to say, I've never seen that picture.

How do you know without having seen it?
"

He can't see anything with his nose that far up in the air.
posted by octothorpe at 7:32 AM on August 29, 2011 [13 favorites]


I can see my nose.
posted by tomswift at 7:49 AM on August 29, 2011


well, the tip of it anyway.
posted by tomswift at 7:49 AM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


but it's really out of focus.
posted by tomswift at 7:49 AM on August 29, 2011


I always preferred "Red Moon Desert," because you could sort of pretend that it was taken on a terraformed moon.
posted by muddgirl at 7:52 AM on August 29, 2011


"Take that picture in the middle of August, and the pure green of the grape vine leaves will overwhelm your senses."

More like this.


Kirkaracha, I'd bet that picture you posted was taken in April or May.
posted by incessant at 7:53 AM on August 29, 2011


There was a post about this before and the article in that post mentioned that the field in the picture had some kind of blight the year before and that's why there were no vines in the photo.
posted by smcniven at 7:55 AM on August 29, 2011


I can see my nose...

Be careful or your eyes will get stuck like that.
posted by TedW at 7:56 AM on August 29, 2011


I'm proud to say, I've never seen that picture.

What an odd thing to be proud of...
posted by rocket88 at 7:57 AM on August 29, 2011


That image evokes a saccharine sense of freedom and possibility. Which makes it the iconic image in cubicles, with tired ventilation and stale coffee lingering, and the slight desperation and boredom that pervades offices.

It's exactly what a corporation would view as a "nice" image to put in front of a patients face before they were administered a healthy quaff of a synthetic sort of a Brompton's cocktail.
posted by Skygazer at 7:58 AM on August 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Smcniven, that's just not possible. If there's blight, the vines might die off, but then it'll be trellised dirt, not a field of grass.
posted by incessant at 7:58 AM on August 29, 2011


(I should be clearer -- the blight would've damaged the vines and then the grower would've torn out the vines, in preparation to plant new ones.)
posted by incessant at 7:59 AM on August 29, 2011


incessant: here's an article from last year with this tidbit:

The vineyard seen in the picture was blighted by the devastating phylloxera bug in the early 1990s – so all the vines were temporarily removed, revealing the rolling pastures of O’Rear’s photo.
posted by smcniven at 8:03 AM on August 29, 2011


More like this.
posted by kirkaracha


Fitting actually, since about 10 minutes of XP is all it takes to make me wanna drink. It's a serving suggestion.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:04 AM on August 29, 2011


I stand corrected, smc, although I have to say I'd be curious to see the source for that information -- there is plenty of blighted acreage around Sonoma, and I don't think I've ever seen one of them grass'd over.
posted by incessant at 8:17 AM on August 29, 2011


One should never find the Palouse on their travel list.

Ever!
posted by humboldt32 at 8:24 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Every time I drive to work, I pass a hill that looks remarkably like the original Bliss one (though not as saturated, and with a few more trees dotted about) and I chuckle quietly to myself at the thought of millions upon millions of poor benighted office workers only ever getting as close to that as a default background on a computer screen.

I love where I live.
posted by flabdablet at 8:28 AM on August 29, 2011


No clue, but I'll bet "bliss" means something different in Dutch.

"Bliss" translates to "Doesn't go" in Dutch.
posted by orme at 8:34 AM on August 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


No clue, but I'll bet "bliss" means something different in Dutch.

I would have guessed the same for any other language, but 'blis(s)" doesn't mean anything in Dutch. (orme is most likely trying to resurrect an ancient American car joke.)
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:37 AM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Este Chevy no va.
posted by Devils Rancher at 8:53 AM on August 29, 2011


Nobody who's ever driven through Sonoma County's wine country would actually call it "dreary".
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:57 AM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like this version.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 8:59 AM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think my new goal in life is going to be tricking mac users into seeing the Windows XP background.

Hey guys! New leaked pictures of the new iPhone! Check it out.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:10 AM on August 29, 2011 [6 favorites]


Extended Bliss, using Photoshop's content-aware fill
posted by rottytooth at 9:16 AM on August 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've always just assumed it was Sonoma. Don't ask me why.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:21 AM on August 29, 2011


Once upon a time, I saw a blog featuring a picture Bill Gates at his desktop. The blogger was chuckling over Gates' fecklessness in that he was still stuck on the default Windows XP desktop... until light dawned that maybe it's the default because it's what Gates liked.
posted by Zed at 9:29 AM on August 29, 2011 [5 favorites]


Does your xp default desktop need more flair? Just add rally car!
posted by freq at 9:40 AM on August 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wait. What was formerly an empty hill is now covered in delicious Sonoma wine grapes and people are complaining?

You guys have your priorities bass-ackwards.

I have a new quest: find the winery that gets these grapes and buy a bottle of Windows-wine.
posted by spitefulcrow at 9:41 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


To my mind, the "dreary" view of the place 10 years later is a lot more beautiful, because it clearly shows a working field. Those are clearly grapevines.

"Bliss", itself, looks to me like a giant lawn, like somebody's crazy idea of what nature ought to look like -- tamed, and for purely recreational use. The sort of place that, properly, adorable moppets or self-involved lovers ought to run through, arms outstretched and mouths agape, every 15 minutes or so. Sort of a silly place.

I doubt that's what it is, though. Maybe that intensely green plant is some kind of cover crop that was planted before grapevines, to prepare the soil? Does anybody know?
posted by gurple at 9:42 AM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


See? Windows ruins everything...
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 9:45 AM on August 29, 2011


At my old job at a pharmaceutical company, which had truly draconian IT policies, I promised a desktop support agent who had to leave for the night that I would remove myself from the administrator group after I performed a previously failed automatic software installation. Of course, I forgot to do so (that was the entire purpose of the call) and was able to install VirtualBox to run Linux as well as some other tools I needed to actually get some work done.

Running Linux on a workstation Just Wasn't Done because it was Against the Rules. Configuring my Linux desktop to look as much like Windows was the first part, but using Bliss as my wallpaper sealed the deal. I used that setup for years and never got caught.
posted by double block and bleed at 9:49 AM on August 29, 2011 [21 favorites]


For some reason, I always thought it was a photo of the Palouse. In fact, I had the Palouse on my travel list precisely because of that photo.

I work at the Washington State Digital Archives at the northern edge of the Palouse and we thought the same. In fact, we sometimes tell visitors that the picture was taken just a few miles south of our facility. I have no idea who first started saying this, but obviously we are wrong. In our defense, the picture does look exactly like the Palouse in the spring when the winter wheat is taking off (1, 2, 3).
posted by LarryC at 10:03 AM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here's a neat animated GIF
posted by exogenous at 10:17 AM on August 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I actually think that the recent picture is prettier in a lot of ways.
posted by gracedissolved at 12:00 PM on August 29, 2011


I have this version in the folder of desktop images that my, uh, *mumble*powerbook*mumble rotates through randomly.
posted by BrashTech at 12:02 PM on August 29, 2011


I'm on OS X, and I still use this as a wallpaper.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:22 PM on August 29, 2011


> This picture, however, was not shot in California.

Where we're going, we won't need wallpaper.

posted by mmrtnt at 12:36 PM on August 29, 2011


gurple, that's correct, the original 'bliss' look is hardly unindustrialized nature it's very manicured.
posted by the mad poster! at 12:47 PM on August 29, 2011


I always imagined Christina sitting on the hill.
posted by Cranberry at 1:10 PM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can't say I've seen bliss as much as the real default Windows XP wallpaper. (i.e. The one you get when it tells you your virtual desktop has crashed.)
posted by markkraft at 1:52 PM on August 29, 2011


(orme is most likely trying to resurrect an ancient American car joke.) posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 11:37 AM on 8/29

Not true! What IS true is if you flash your highbeams at this wallpaper, the paperclip from Office will murder you.
posted by orme at 2:33 PM on August 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Where the hilarious photoshopped versions?
posted by fuq at 2:42 PM on August 29, 2011


Yay stealing content from some dutch blogger? http://jwvanwessel.wordpress.com/
posted by Joe Chip at 2:49 PM on August 29, 2011


Hmm, so this wasn't even Photoshopped, and meanwhile Apple removed an entire galaxy to make theirs...
posted by dixie flatline at 3:07 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I doubt that's what it is, though. Maybe that intensely green plant is some kind of cover crop that was planted before grapevines, to prepare the soil? Does anybody know?
posted by gurple at 9:42 AM on August 29 [1 favorite +] [!]


gurple, that's correct, the original 'bliss' look is hardly unindustrialized nature it's very manicured.
posted by the mad poster! at 12:47 PM on August 29 [+] [!]


Actually, that IS what open fields in Northern/Central California look like after the early spring rains! It gets insanely green and lush, but by mid-summer is golden and dry.
posted by yarly at 3:34 PM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yarly is correct. The spring hills in the coastal range in California get an amazing color of green. I grew up in the area, and it's just spectacular then. I happened to in the Anderson Valley of California the May before last, and that was the greenest I've ever seen. A very long, wet spring delayed the browning of the grass on the hills, so they were still bright green when the oaks put out their flush of new growth. Absolutely amazing.

As to the color in this photograph not being digitally altered, that's not surprising. Having the right light, and using something like Fuji Velvia 50 will give you that kind of super-saturated color.
posted by Eekacat at 4:13 PM on August 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hey guys! New leaked pictures of the new iPhone! Check it out.

Needs more Astley
posted by flabdablet at 4:35 PM on August 29, 2011


I spent most of my youth in that county.

It's really three seasons there: winter, spring (the best time of year), and then a very long summer. It rains in the winter and the first part of spring, usually tapering off by mid-April, which is probably about when Bliss was taken. All the grass grows while it rains, because it never gets cold enough to discourage it, so the whole area is lush and lovely, especially during spring, the best time of year. Eventually, the rain stops, and everything dries out and turns brown. So summer is long, hot, and kinda dreary. The only real difference between summer and autumn is that it's not as hot; it's just as dry and just as brown. Then, the winter rains return, and everything gets green again.

This is probably the biggest reason for the major differences between the various photos you'll see of the area... when a photo is taken is much more important than pretty much anything else.

Overall, Sonoma County is a truly lovely place in April and May, kinda parched-looking in June, and then brown and dead-looking until about December. If you want to travel into that area, early May is probably the best time to go. It's warm enough for shirtsleeves, but still green and pretty. And there will be other vistas something like Bliss, although in the fifteen years or so since I left, it appears that a lot more of the land has been put into viticulture.

I also strongly recommend going further up the coast. If you travel up 101 to Cloverdale, and then head out 128 through Boonville (home of the folk language Boontling, largely created as a gigantic in-joke) and then Navarro, the section of freeway from Navarro out to Highway 1 and then to Fort Bragg is the most spectacular drive I've ever personally seen, wending its way among huge, old-growth redwoods. If it's foggy, it's kind of mysterious and awe-inspiring, with these absolutely enormous trees shooting up out of sight. If it's sunny, it's warm and inviting and just beautiful, often with sunbeams piercing the canopy and lighting up the forest floor. There are plenty of spots where you can just pull over and get out and wander a little. Eventually, you get to the craggy coastline, and drive a very, very windy freeway perched right over the ocean in many places. Because of the careful focus required to deal with the many sharp curves, it's fatiguing to drive along Highway 1 for long periods of time, but the short run from 128 up to Fort Bragg is just long enough to be really nice.

Fort Bragg itself is an overpriced tourist trap, but the Skunk Train, based there, is worth riding if you want to see nearly pristine California countryside. One warning, though, in areas with lots of sun, like around train tracks, California vegetation can get pretty dense. Lots and lots of blackberries in that area, which are so common that people think of them as pest plants, despite the nice berries they produce. It's a neat ride, but don't expect sweeping views.

I've only ever done the half-day trip, about 90 minutes out to a little rest stop, and then back to home base, but there's a longer trip that ends up in Willits, if you're feeling adventurous.

That whole area is a neat place to visit. Take it slow, wander around, check out the back country. If you're there at the right time of year, it is a lovely, lovely place. Lots of wineries, too, if you're into wine.
posted by Malor at 5:12 PM on August 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Here's a better quality version of the more recent picture if you'd like to use it as your desktop wallpaper.
posted by painquale at 6:55 PM on August 29, 2011


One important reason the old, uncultivated hill photo would be preferred to the newer one as default Windows XP wallpaper has to do with the video technology of the time. Ten years ago, many people still had graphics cards with a small number of available colors, and in fact Windows XP would always start up in 256-color mode when you first installed it. The mix of brownish-greens and greenish-browns that comprise the "new Bliss" photo would look awful on screens that had only a few colors, whereas the old "Teletubbies hill" looked fine.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 7:36 PM on August 29, 2011


Yeah, someone told me it was the Palouse and I believed 'em, having driving through plenty of times. Guess I stand corrected.
posted by wallabear at 7:59 PM on August 29, 2011


I have a new quest: find the winery that gets these grapes and buy a bottle of Windows-wine.
Hopefully the people who own the vineyard have thought of this, or you have just made them a fortune!
posted by fullerine at 2:59 AM on August 30, 2011


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