London: A sun-kissed California view has become the most viewed image on the planet after Microsoft used it for its Windows XP background.
More than a billion people around the world have seen the image shot by former National Geographic magazine photographer Chuck O’Rear in Sonoma, Napa, North California.
Although the 69-year-old photographer signed a confidentiality agreement so he can’t say how much he got paid – O’Rear’s photo of the countryside near his Napa Valley home is reportedly the second most expensive photo licence ever purchased.
O’Rear was struck by the beauty of the rolling vineyards while on his way to visit his girlfriend Daphne Larkin, who he married shortly after.
He was so entranced by the green of the grass and the white clouds in the perfectly blue California sky that he pulled over and got out his camera.
“I drove the same route between Napa and San Francisco a couple of times a week in 2002 or 2003 but this was January when the grass is the most brilliant green here so I jumped out and took a couple of shots and then carried on my way,” the Daily Mail quoted O’Rear as saying.
But he never knew he’d hit the jackpot until he got a call from his agent with the Corbis photo archive telling him that Microsoft wanted the original of the picture.
“I had no idea when I took the photograph that anything like that could happen. It is probably the most recognized photo on the planet. If you took it to some village in Bangladesh they might recognise it or you could stop somebody walking down the street in China and they may know what it is,” he added.
O’Rear, who began his career with the Kansas City Star and the Los Angeles Times, worked for 25 years for the National Geographic and now specialises in photographing winemaking in Napa and around the world.