Small town, Large tablet
In the lead-up to Apple's annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in June, a triple treat of surprise wallpapers were discovered in the iOS 10.3.3 software beta. For such an incremental update, the addition of wallpapers are a rare event and so the rumours began to rise as to what their inclusion could suggest.
Apple consistently release developer beta and public beta software updates for feature testing and feedback purposes. New features and UI tweaks found in each beta are often covered by tech news sources and discussed in our podcast. With this unexpected find, I noticed something remarkable that required confirmation. It was not until I put the pieces of the puzzle together that I proved at least one of these photographic wallpapers is of my West-Australian hometown Albany.
Before I dive into the details, see below...
Every picture tells a story
I first read about this iOS 10.3.3 discovery on May 17 through Chance Miller's article at 9to5 Mac; the strangest aspect being the exclusivity to the 12.9" iPad Pro. Technical details aside for now, it's the imagery itself that captivated me.
I've always admired Apple's stock wallpapers, particularly those that use nature in a textural, artistic manner to complement UI rather than compete with it. In recent years, Apple's choice for photographic locations has expanded beyond the state of California to a truly international scope. In 2017, we've seen Johannesburg, Shanghai and Tokyo feature in Apple's 'One Night' video series, just to name a few.
Initially, I suspected the pink body of water in 'Rose-Gold' could be Pink Lake in Esperance WA. From a visual standpoint I was convinced, but without any descriptive information I moved on to the next one to find a correlation. A pristine beach titled 'Albany-Gold' threw my senses into overload... if 'Rose-Gold' is indeed Pink Lake, could this image simply be one of Albany's numerous secluded beaches? Both Western Australia, both in the Great Southern region? I was stunned.
The third and final image mysteriously named 'Sparrow' is also reminiscent of something you'd find within the Great Southern region. Unfortunately, at the time of writing, I have no solid evidence of its location or the photographer.
The search is on
With major software releases, Apple sometimes include a series of three images that are stylistically similar to another. The bird's eye view style, central human figure and water-to-land composition brought me to think that these could have been shot by the same photographer.
Like anyone else, I took to Google and searched by image to get content-aware match results; hoping to find the original source and / or location. Due to the multitude of tech articles referencing iOS 10.3.3, Google automatically added an 'iOS 10' search term to the 'Rose-Gold' image I uploaded. Replacing this with 'esperance' or 'pink lake' resulted in other images of the lake itself; I was convinced but still required further information.
Undeterred, I tried the same process with 'Albany-Gold'. As before, the auto 'iOS 10' term appeared which I replaced with 'albany'. Scrolling through the results were the same tech sites but then I noticed a reference to 'Albany Summer'...
There it was, a Tumblr search containing a cropped version of the very same image with the caption 'Shelly Beach, Albany, Western Australia'. I was equal parts proud, excited and shocked; my quiet coastal hometown, 14,720 kilometres from Apple in Cupertino, existing as an official software wallpaper for the world's biggest brand!
The cherry on top was finding a copyright reference in the caption of the Tumblr post by 'peaceflavor' - this reference was simply '© SaltyWings'. Taking a look through PeaceFlavor's Tumblr profile, the majority of images are ocean / sea-side based and a mixture of PeaceFlavor's work and other photographers work ( which are credited ).
A simple search of 'SaltyWings' brought me to the guys responsible for what became the 'Albany-Gold' wallpaper. Here you will find the cropped version available to purchase in multiple print formats - also featured on their print store homepage here. Naturally I wanted to find out more, so I got in touch with Michael Goetze, one half of the SaltyWings duo, to ask some questions.
That's not Esperance...
In my brief conversation with Michael, he was aware of the media coverage of these wallpapers and what the other two looked like. After stating I had found the Shelley Beach image on their site, I asked, presuming it to be the true, whether the other two photos were by SaltyWings... turns out they're not, but that one of Michael's fellow drone photographers, AirPixels, shot the pink lake image. He does not know who the third image belongs to.
While I casually referred to it as the 'Esperance pic', I was then proven wrong again as Michael revealed that this pink lake was actually a location in Spain! Completely bamboozled, I thanked him and ended the call to find out more about bubblegum-coloured Spanish water. It is by pure coincidence that this lagoon in Spain looked near identical to the aforementioned Esperance equivalent. My previous thoughts of a Great Southern-themed image series had been blown out the water.
Swedish photographer Tobias Hägg aka AirPixels was easy enough to find via his Instagram and website, although THE pink lagoon image was nowhere to be found. A quick image search of 'pink lake spain airpixels' gave me the result shown above. While the original 500px upload is no longer available, this search confirms Tobias as the photographer. I have reached out to Tobias for any details regarding Apple's approach and the third unknown wallpaper, although currently waiting for a response.
Size does matter
While the actual display and pixel dimensions of an iPad are rectangular, typically the stock wallpapers are square to allow for portrait / landscape orientations as well as the parallax effect. With these images being specific to the 12.9" iPad Pro, you will find current stock wallpapers are sized at 2732 x 2732 pixels. These three new images are larger at 3208 x 3208 pixels... so what does this tell us?
With WWDC around the corner, the likelihood of a new 10.5" iPad Pro is increasing daily. In Episode 27, Nic and I addressed this topic with our prediction that an updated 12.9" iPad Pro wouldn't appear until a Pro-themed October event. The increased image dimensions point to increased pixels-per-inch (ppi); this suggesting improved display technology in a brand new 12.9" model!
It can be very easy to get swept up in the tech rumour mill so I can't say I'm certain of a 12.9" iPad Pro appearing at WWDC. If we do see two new design Pro models debut alongside another it would finally mean parity for the iPad Pro line-up and a distinct tier difference from March's lower-spec, lower-cost 9.7" iPad release.
As Apple fans await the reveal of iOS 11 at WWDC, these wallpapers have a strong chance of being used across all iOS devices. Of course only one will become the face of the new iOS and my hope is for 'Albany-Gold' aka Shelley Beach. Not only can I directly relate to the image but it also provides a nice colour balance of being vibrant yet not overpowering.
The very thought of Albany appearing across millions of iOS devices is simply the best... better than all the rest (ok Tina, stop). My mission now is to find the exact spot it was shot and take my very own 'Albany-Gold'.
A small, humble Australian coastal town going worldwide - brilliant!