The Most-Viewed Photo Of All Time? It’s From Wine Country…

Vinted on July 24, 2012 binned in best of, wine books, wine news

If you’ve ever used a Microsoft Windows computer PC (which I’m guessing is a group that includes 99.999% of the people reading this, even the Mactards), chances are very good that you’ve seen this image.

It’s called Bliss and was taken by Napa “are we sick of hearing about this place yet” Valley resident and former National Geographic photographer Charles O’Rear, while he was taking a break during a drive through Napa Sonoma (corrected here as well as below, thanks to James Marshall Berry for pointing out the misinformation!) while on an assignment. O’Rear sold the image to Microsoft over ten years ago, and it has been one of the default background images for Microsoft Windows ever since (specifically, for Windows XP… yes, Mac-lovers, it was visible right before XP crashed into the Blue Screen Of Death… I admit that I’m just jealous of your computer’s stability and chic cool aesthetics, okay?).

Due to its default background-image status, according to the blog Morts Photography this photo is very likely now the single most viewed image of all time, having been seen by well over a billion people worldwide…

Of course, that figure is impossible to validate, but the very real possibility that a wine country image might be the most recognizable photo in the world should be an intriguing one for wine lovers; Bliss puts wine country imagery somewhere in the Raising The Flag On Iwo Jima territory of iconic lens work.

O’Rear was paid an undisclosed amount for the rights to the photo, but also according to Morts (and the Napa Valley Register) it’s been estimated that the amount tendered to him by Microsoft would make this at least the second most expensive photo of all time (the first being a shot of president Bill Clinton hugging… Monica Lewinsky).

This makes Sonoma potentially the most-viewed wine region in world photographic history, yet somewhat ironically not a grape or bottle is in sight in the picture.

I find that fascinating, but I’m a geek. Personally, I’m a bit sick of seeing that photo, but that’s not because I don’t think it’s a lovely shot (it is); it is merely contempt bred from familiarity, which is exactly how I have often felt about Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, and am starting to feel about $10 Argentine Malbec, though theoretically there’s nothing inherently wrong with the concept of either one of them. Anyway…

Part of the image’s appeal is of course the beauty of the region itself, but another is the skill of O’Rear as a photographer in how he rendered his subject – the guy simply takes amazing photographs, and his ability to capture the soul of Napa Valley is probably only matched by the late Wes Walker. Anyone out there reading this who’s been to Sonoma or The Valley have probably taken a sh*tload of photos (guilty!), but I’d wager few of them match the area as seen through the skilled eyes of Walker and O’Rear (but if you have wine country shots of which you’re particularly proud, please share links!).

To see more of O’Rear’s work that probably won’t breed familiar contempt, and which actually involves people, grapevines and bottles (including a really interesting and aesthetically pleasing foldout spread of the art on the foil caps that adorn the top of some of Napa’s most coveted bottles), check out O’Rear’s excellent Napa Valley: The Land, The Wine, The People (about $45). It’s one of the few wine coffee table wine books that doesn’t suck.

Cheers!

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    Comments

  • Fredric Koeppel


    What makes this image perfect as a screen-saver is that it’s a picture of nothing recognizable in any specific sense. Nothing about it says Napa Valley or vineyards or grapes or wine. There a swath of intense undulating green and a swath of intense flat blue pierced with intense white clouds. It could be anywhere. Nothing to task the eyes or brain!

    • 1WineDude


      Fredric – totally. I get that it's a beautiful image, but it is a beautiful image that's damn nearly an ideal, or a painting, and carries quite a bit of a sense of the generic to it, doesn't it?

      • masi3v


        I always thought that it WAS an engineered photo precisely since it is so 'perfect'. I also never think 'artistic' and 'Microsoft' in the same thought.

        –Mactard

        • 1WineDude


          masi3v – yeah, MS never really gives off the artist vibe, does it? :)

  • James Marshall Berry


    Uh.. sorry.. the image is from Sonoma Valley, not Napa.. right up the road from the Fremont diner.. there is a vineyard there now..
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bliss_%28image%29

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, James – will correct shortly! Serves me right listening to blogs, eh? ;-) And it's just SOOOOO much more ironic that the spot now contains a vineyard, after it was made famous….

    • 1WineDude


      OK – done! Thanks again. I feel bad, but not *too* bad since the actual location is less important (to me anyway) than the conceptual irony of a photo being of U.S. wine country, and being so famous, yet lacking any discernible wine country features.

      Having said that, I do apologize to everyone for using what turned out to be incorrect sources, and will do a bit better (or at least a buit more comprehensive!) homework next time. Cheers!

  • Cabfan


    One of the best photo books on Napa Valley. The foldout foil page is beautiful-just so happens to have one of my favorite wines in there too, William Cole Vineyards, Cuvée Claire. If have not tried it ,you should, it is one of the best Cabernet from Napa Valley, hands down!

    • 1WineDude


      Thanks, Cabfan!

  • bubba


    Hmmm. I always thought that was Bill Gates' back yard!

    • 1WineDude


      Bubba – nah, Billy's backyard is bigger…

  • Shawn Zizzo


    Nice little nugget of info. Thanks for sharing…. but what up with the "Mactards" comment?… man that hurts.

    • 1WineDude


      Shawn – thanks, and sorry, couldn't resist it… I've got a long history of teasing Mac lovers (and being teased in return for my insistence on sticking with PCs, despite the fact that mine goes belly-up every few months). There's definitely some jealousy involved on my part :).

  • Dr. Wilf Krutzmann


    Ah… Sonoma !! What a great place to be. On my last visit, while stopping at a winery just before crossing over into the Napa Valley,
    I asked the winemaker what do Sonomans think of Napa? He replied…"Its just another 4 letter word to us." Peace!

    • 1WineDude


      Dr. – HA! That's a bit like what you sometimes hear from producers in the Finger Lakes (“Napa is for auto parts”)…

  • Dr. Wilf Krutzmann


    Ah… Sonoma !! What a great place to be. On my last visit, while stopping at a winery just before crossing over into the Napa Valley,
    I asked the winemaker what do Sonomans think of Napa? He replied…"Its just another 4 letter word to us." Peace!

  • Dr. Wilf Krutzmann


    Ah… Sonoma !! What a great place to be. On my last visit, while stopping at a winery just before crossing over into the Napa Valley,
    I asked the winemaker what do Sonomans think of Napa? He replied…"Its just another 4 letter word to us." Peace!

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