Chuck O’Rear was driving to visit his girlfriend when he was struck by the beauty of the rolling vineyards.
Many people would have carried on without bothering to stop and take a photograph.
But the former National Geographic magazine photographer 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.
Never for a moment did he think the shot would become the most viewed image on the planet.
When it comes to famous photographs, a computer desktop image is unlikely to be the first thought on most people’s minds.
But more than a billion people around the world have seen Mr O’Rear’s photo of the countryside near his Napa Valley home.
Most of them don’t even realise they have been looking at it.
For it was chosen by Microsoft engineers as the desktop image for their Windows XP background.
Although the 69-year-old photographer signed a confidentiality agreement so he can’t say how much he got paid – it is reportedly the second most expensive photo licence ever purchased.
'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,’ said Mr O’Rear.
He didn’t give much more thought to the picture after picking up girlfriend Daphne Larkin, who he married shortly after.
It was only when he got a call from his agent with the Corbis photo archive telling him that Microsoft wanted the original of the picture that he discovered he’d hit the jackpot.
'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 the might recognise it or you could stop somebody walking down the street in China and they may know what it is,’ he added.
Mr 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.
But unlike many PC users, he doesn’t get to see his XP photo every day – because he uses a Mac.
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