Saturday, March 26, 2022

Location of Windows XP "Bliss" & Napa Valley, CA

On 16 January 2022, my parents and I took a trip into California wine country, Napa County, also know as the Napa Valley wine region. We visited Sonoma, Rutherford, Oakville, and Napa. I took photos with my mirrorless camera. I hope you enjoy viewing my photos.

Full Resolution Photos: If you want to see full resolution photos of any of the photos you see here, use the following links. If you wish to purchase prints of any of the photos, please contact me here. To view my best Napa Valley photos, use this link. To see all of my photos from this trip, use this link.

My first stop was on the side of Fremont Drive in Sonoma, CA. I ended up photographing this vineyard on the side of the busy country road. The approximate GPS coordinates (type into Google) of the photos are 38° 14' 58 N, 122° 24' 36" W. You might be wondering what is so special about this location? If you read the title of the blog post, or if you typed the coordinates into Google Maps, you might already know. If you haven't, let me tell you and give you a short history lesson!

A scenery photo of a vineyard shot on the side of Fremont Drive in Sonoma, CA. The photo was shot close to the location of the world famous default Windows XP wallpaper "Bliss".

Remember the default wallpaper "Bliss" that came with Windows XP back in the day? The location I stopped at was close to the same spot Charles O'Rear was when he took his photo back in January 1996. The rights to the photo, "Bucolic Green Hills" taken by Charles O'Rear in 1996, was bought by Microsoft in 2000 which was when Microsoft renamed the image "Bliss". The exact amount Microsoft paid Charles O'Rear for the exclusive rights to the photo was never disclosed due to a non-disclosure agreement between the 2 parties. A clue of the value comes from the fact that none of the US couriers and delivery services were willing to ship the original film to Microsoft in Seattle from Napa Valley, CA as none of them can insure the shipment for such high amounts. In the end Microsoft bought Charles O'Rear a plane ticket to Seattle so he can make the delivery in person. 

A scenery photo of a vineyard shot on the side of Fremont Drive in Sonoma, CA. The photo was shot close to the location of the world famous default Windows XP wallpaper "Bliss".

A scenery photo of a vineyard shot on the side of Fremont Drive in Sonoma, CA. The photo was shot close to the location of the world famous default Windows XP wallpaper "Bliss".

You can see a vineyard in my photos while "Bliss" didn't have them. I'm pretty sure you all remember "Bliss" being a photo of a green grass covered hill, a blue sky, and some white clouds floating around in the sky. So why is that? A few years earlier before Charles O'Rear took the photo, a phylloxera infestation wiped out the crop so all the crop was pulled out leaving behind an empty hill. Winter rains leading up to when "Bliss" was taken left the area especially green as plants were growing. Charles O'Rear was driving from St. Helena, CA to San Francisco to visit his girlfriend. He said he was on high alert for photo opportunities that day since a storm just passed. Charles O'Rear was quoted to have said, "I didn't "create" this. I just happened to be there at the right moment and documented it." The reason you see a vineyard in my photo is because at some point the vineyard owner started growing grapes again.

I think this is enough history for my blog post. 😁 My blog is so you can view my photos, I am a photographer, not a historian. If you want to get more information and read about the history of the world famous Windows XP wallpaper, "Bliss", you can read this Wikipedia article here. If you want to travel to this spot to take photos yourself, keep reading, I have some tips for you.


A scenery photo of a vineyard shot on the side of Fremont Drive in Sonoma, CA. The photo was shot close to the location of the world famous default Windows XP wallpaper "Bliss".

Please note that there is nowhere to park on the side of Fremont Drive near this location. The location isn't even labeled and there are no signs anywhere pointing to this spot. The closest parking my parents and I found was on Ramal Road which is a short distance away from the photo location. Ramal Road is a country road that intersects Fremont Drive, and once you're on Ramal Road you can just pull off to side. There is plenty of room to park a car on the sides of Ramal Road, but not on Fremont Drive near the photo location. Please note that you will be walking a short distance on the side of Fremont Drive, which is a busy road. There is quite some room on the side of Fremont Drive for a pedestrian, but you will be faced with uneven ground and weeds. The approximate GPS coordinates (type into Google) where I took my photos is at 38° 14' 58 N, 122° 24' 36" W. The approximate GPS coordinates (type into Google) where my parents and I parked is at 38° 14' 47 N, 122° 24' 45" W. 

A scenery photo of a vineyard shot on the side of Fremont Drive in Sonoma, CA. The photo was shot close to the location of the world famous default Windows XP wallpaper "Bliss".

I think most of the drivers on the road was wondering what this crazy girl is doing carrying a tripod, camera, and a camera backpack down the side of a busy country road. 😂 Some cars even honked at me. I think most people drive by this location without realizing the historical significance of the spot. There are no signs pointing to this location, and to many people it probably just looks like another unassuming and unremarkable vineyard in the middle of California's wine country. Maybe the only people that take photos at this spot these days are computer geeks like me.

A scenery photo of a vineyard shot on the side of Fremont Drive in Sonoma, CA. The photo was shot close to the location of the world famous default Windows XP wallpaper "Bliss".


After I was done photographing "the famous vineyard", my parents and I went further into Napa Valley to do some sightseeing.

A photo of a historic railroad car near State Route 128 shot in Rutherford, CA. 
Approximate GPS location (type into Google): 38° 27' 35" N 122° 25' 27" W

It seems to be a historic railroad car that used to operate as a United States Mail Railway Post Office car. I think it was owned by the American Railway Express, and then purchased by Napa Valley Railroad. I tried to find more history on this historic railroad car, but I was not able to find much information except for this. I do not fully understand the history behind it so I can't write much more than this. Also the information I have provided may not be accurate as I don't fully understand the history.

Black and white process of the photo above.

A scenery photo of wild mustard flowers and a vineyard. The photo was shot near State Route 29 in Oakville, CA.
Approximate GPS location (type into Google): 38° 26' 03" N 122° 24' 00" W


Our last stop of the day was Downtown Napa.

A dusk scenery photo shot at China Point Park in Napa, CA.
In the photo are Downtown Napa, Napa River, and 3rd Street (bridge).
Approximate GPS location (type into Google): 38° 17' 59" N 122° 17' 01" W

Black and white process of the photo above.

A dusk scenery photo shot on 1st Street in Napa, CA.
In the photo are Napa River (in the foreground flowing into the distance), Historical Borreo Building (left), 3rd Street (bridge in center), and Downtown Napa (right).
Approximate GPS location (type into Google): 38° 17' 59" N 122° 17' 04" W

Black and white process of the photo above.

This is all the photos for today. I hope you have enjoyed the photos! Please don't forget to share the blog post with your friends and family members! Also, if you want to get notifications when I post up more photos, "Like" us on Facebook or follow me on Twitter and Instagram. These links can also be found on the top of the right sidebar.