Man Who Shot ‘Most Viewed Photo Ever’ Says ‘I Just Happened To Be There At The Right Moment’

Man Who Shot ‘Most Viewed Photo Ever’ Says ‘I Just Happened To Be There At The Right Moment’
2nd Credit: Chuck O’Rear

In a delightful twist of fate that would make any photographer green with envy, Chuck O’Rear, the man behind the lens of the world’s most viewed photograph, “Bliss,” shares his serendipitous story. This iconic image, a verdant landscape under a cloud-speckled azure sky, isn’t just any desktop wallpaper—it’s a symbol of serendipity, captured purely by being in the right place at the right time.

Back in January 1996, O’Rear, a seasoned lensman with an eye for the extraordinary, was on a routine drive from St. Helena, California, to Marin County. Little did he know, his journey to see his future wife, Daphne Larkin, would lead him to snap a picture that would eventually grace countless computer screens worldwide.

This wasn’t a meticulously planned shoot; it was an impromptu click that resulted in “Bliss.” O’Rear’s practice of always having his camera by his side paid off in an unexpectedly monumental way. He describes the scene as just another beautiful landscape, enhanced by the superior color rendition of Fuji Film and the exceptional lenses of the RZ67 camera he used.

The sheer ubiquity of “Bliss” is something O’Rear still marvels at. From billboards to old hotel lobby computers, the image seems to follow him around the globe, a constant reminder of that one perfect shot. His wife, Larkin, humorously notes that despite his 25-year tenure at National Geographic, it’s “Bliss” that has defined his career in the eyes of the world.

Microsoft’s acquisition of the photo for a reported sum exceeding $100,000 back in 1998 just adds to the tale, illustrating the immense value of a single, serendipitous moment captured through a lens. In contrast, another photographer received a mere $45 for a different wallpaper image, underscoring the unique impact of “Bliss.”

This story isn’t just about the right lighting or the perfect gear; it’s a testament to the magic of photography, where sometimes, all you need is to be in the right place, at the right moment, with your camera ready. O’Rear’s advice? Always carry a camera—you never know when the next “Bliss” might unfold right before your eyes.