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For most people, the decision of which wallpaper to choose for your iPhone is just a matter of going through your photo library to find the right picture. For Espen Haagensen, however, the process just became a whole lot easier. Starting September 17th, a photo of the Milky Way he captured while in Norway will become the default wallpaper in iOS 8, software that will be downloaded hundreds of millions of times by users all around the world.

Two days later, on September 19th, countless iPhone 6 and 6 Plus units will begin shipping out to customers, all preloaded with the same shot. I talked to Espen about the photo’s origins and how it feels to be so prominently featured by Apple.

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Haagensen’s original photo (left) and Apple’s version (right). [Photo Credit]

According to Haagensen, the image was captured last December during a ski trip with a mountain group in the Norwegian Trekking Association:

Every year we take the train up in the mountains and ski for 5-6 hours to get [to] the Demmevass hut. The hut is very remote and old and is situated close to a glacier. After we get there we prepare traditional Norwegian Christmas food. The next day we ski back to the railroad before we take the train home.

I do quite a lot of starscapes and Milky Way shots but this was the first time I brought a decent wide angle and full size tripod to Demmevass. There was a rather big moon so the Milky Way was faint, but around midnight there were some skies and the moon disappeared and I was able to capture a nice series.

The Demmevass hut Espen speaks of is the small building pictured in the original photo above. Apple removed the structure from the shipping version of the wallpaper, likely to create a more simple image.

Espen originally shared the image on the photography site 500px, where the image garnered a lot of attention. While he never asked Apple how they found the image, he suspects it was thanks to its popularity. Espen describes how Apple approached him about the photo:

I was approached a couple of months ago by Apple, they wanted to license the image for non-broadcast use. Then some time in July they wanted to extend the license to also include broadcast use. I didn’t know before yesterday what they were going to use it for. A colleague called me during the Apple presentation.

Imagine the shock of Apple using your image to promote the brand new iPhone 6. Espen say’s that it’s a bit weird knowing so many people will see the image, but it’s definitely a proud accomplishment.

You can read more about the location the photo was taken here (Google Translate link), along with some alternate shots from the same night.

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About the Author

Michael Steeber

Michael is a Creative Editor who covered Apple Retail and design on 9to5Mac. His stories highlighted the work of talented artists, designers, and customers through a unique lens of architecture, creativity, and community.

Contact Michael on Twitter to share Apple Retail, design, and history stories: @MichaelSteeber