The Headers of Twenty Ten

When planning and designing Twenty Ten, the new default theme in WordPress 3.0, we knew that the header would be a really prominent feature, a focal point, and wanted some good defaults to excite people about the theme. Some of the most popular themes on like Misty Look, Chaotic Soul, Ocean Mist, and Cutline all feature prominent photo headers.

It can be a pain to find appropriately licensed imagery for Open Source projects, so I asked MT to explore a bit from the random photos page on and see what he could find. Here are each of the images he chose, in header form and linked to the original, with the location and story behind each photo.

In December 2005 Automattic had just gotten started and I planned a Europe trip to raise awareness and also meet some of the community there. It started with Les Blogs in Paris, then to London where I met Mike Little (co-founder of WordPress), Mark Riley (then known as Podz), and Khaled for  at a WP meetup. Finally I went to Ireland, specifically Blarney, where I met the first employee of Automattic Donncha O Caoimh in person and learned how to pronounce his name. We went on a photowalk together and I caught this lonely figure walking up a private road to Blarney Castle.

Earlier this year I had just attended my first DLD conference in Munich, Germany. I was cold and exhausted and awake far too early to catch the car to the airport for a cross-Atlantic flight to Memphis. Half asleep, I noticed the most beautiful fresh powder from a snow the night before dusting a forest along the road to the airport, snapped a quick photo with the aperture wide open, and the tint on the windows of the car made it even more dreamy. Shot with a 50mm at f/1.4 with 1/2500 shutter out of a car going probably 50 km/h.

These cherry blossoms, as well as the next two photos, were taken on the same day. I was in Osaka for WordCamp Kansai and Naoko McCracken was showing me some temples in nearby Kyoto. The cherry (and plum) blossoms had just started blooming so everything was magical. You can see MT artfully cropped the photo to exclude the power lines. Shot with a 70-200mm all the way out at 70mm and f/4.

The sun was starting to set and made the trees and such just gorgeous. 70-200mm at 70mm, f/2.8, 1/1600 sec, ISO 200.

I’m not sure what this vegetation is, but I’m pretty sure it was on the side of the road in Kyoto. A 70-200mm zoomed 86mm at f/2.8, 1/250 sec shutter, and ISO 200.

This “concave” image is from the roof of the mosque next to the Taj Mahal in Agra. 50mm, wide open at f/1.4. I was in India with Om for WordCamp Delhi and a bit of exploring the city where Om grew up before moving to New York and then San Francisco where we met. The Taj Mahal is a striking site and that entire day was full of exciting snaps, like two couches being carried on the back of a bike, a jumping photo that was my profile for a while, on of my favorite portraits of Om, and my favorite photo of the trip that captured the religious diversity of India with a Christian, Muslim, and Hindu sitting in a row. I can’t get enough of the geometric patterns in mosques as will be obvious when I finish posting my Turkey photos. The visit inspired Om to write a post about what the Taj Mahal and Apple have in common.

This header is named “sunset” but it’s actually a sunrise. It’s an understandable mistake, from what MT knows of me he probably never imagined I would be up that early. 🙂 But this morning was special: it was my second day on a trip with Richard Branson at his game reserve in South Africa called Ulusaba. This sunrise was snapped coming down the hill from the rooms to start a game drive where we would find a pride of lions who had just gotten a kill, then visit a few of the projects Virgin Unite was supporting, and finally join a feast/festival on the grounds.

The last one isn’t a photo at all, but I just wanted to mention it because it’s one of two awesome illustrations Chad Pugh did for our Firefox Personas project. You can also see it blown up 15 feet long at Automattic’s lounge in San Francisco.

I must admit there is a certain thrill to knowing my photos are being enjoyed far and wide, similar to the thrill I got when I first contributed to Open Source. There’s also a kind of joy in seeing the author of Twenty Ten, the culmination of the work and creativity of so many people, being attributed in its style.css simply as “the WordPress team.”

Now go and make Twenty Ten your own. 🙂 Note how MT cropped things. Also check out one of my favorite features in Twenty Ten: the ability to override the custom header on a per-post or per-page level, so every single one of your posts can be a unique snowflake.

Update: This post has been translated to Japanese.

86 thoughts on “The Headers of Twenty Ten

  1. I used the sunset header for my personal blog, along with a background of a sunset along a seashore I took a few years ago. Back to the deliciousness of simple blogging. 🙂

  2. Wow, I sure wouldn’t have thought all these were actually yours, Matt. It’s great to know that the team didn’t settle on Flickr or any other free-of-charge sites to gather these nice. It’s even better to know the back-story for each of these. The fact that it comes from the team (well, you, but as you say, it’s teamwork) really gives them more sense and depth. Thanks for sharing these details!

    And, finally, we know why you keep travelling the World: you’re constantly in search of new headers for the next yearly WP theme! 😉

  3. Very cool back stories, Matt. I remember wondering what the source images were, and where they came from.

    Any chance of putting together a community repository (or sorts) for people to contribute/donate other header images? I’d be happy to contribute some (if any are of sufficient quality).

    Do you think that Twentyeleven will retain the same header image space (to support the now-built-in header image functionality in WP)? If so, that would be all the more reason to have a means for the community to contribute header images!

    1. I left the following comment further down (your post wasn’t approved when I wrote that). So I’m quite serious about launching something like this myself. If you are interested in helping out, just let me know. I have quite a few photos myself, not as many as Matt, but enough to kick of a fairly substantial collection for others to add on top of.

      “Hmm, this is providing motivation to create a header site for downloading GPL licensed headers for use in themes like this …. future project for me in the works I think “

  4. Hmm, this is providing motivation to create a header site for downloading GPL licensed headers for use in themes like this …. future project for me in the works I think 🙂

  5. I actually like the “photo walk” one :-). I think it gives enough symbolic meaning to the image that many bloggers will enjoy

    1. It’s amazing to think back 1+ year ago and seeing the photos in the new default theme… More reason to love the Twenty Ten, thanks Matt & MT!

  6. It seems like yesterday that you were in Tokyo for WordCamp Tokyo 2009.
    I hope you will come to Japan again.

    By the way, I think many many WordPress users in japan are interested in this post.
    Can I translate into japanese on my blog? 🙂

  7. If you like Islamic architecture you should visit the Alhambra in Grenada, Spain. It was simply incredible. I’d spent a week on a camel in Morocco just before this so I didn’t have my good camera. I need to go back.

  8. “Also check out one of my favorite features in Twenty Ten: the ability to override the custom header on a per-post or per-page level, so every single one of your posts can be a unique snowflake.”

    How do I achieve this? I upgraded to WP 3.0, switched to Twenty Ten, selected a custom header image, and now I am desperately seeking where to specify the header image on a per post basis.

    Thanks in advance, greetings from Germany,

    1. Just upload the image while making your post, on the right hand side, its called the featured image. One caveat tho….it must be at least 940×198 to be used as the header.

  9. Hey Matt, love the theme, you’ve got a great eye for photo. I was wondering, how one would go about loading a slightly larger image, say 940×400?

    1. In the more info box you can click on the resolution to get a full-sized version of the photo, suitable for wallpapers or whatever you like.

  10. Dig the ferns, Matt can you crop us some more in a mega pack?

    In the meantime I’m re-inspired to tweak some of my photos in that magical 940×198 size

  11. I absolutely love how this theme can use post’s photos (provided they are correct dimensions) as a header image…

    I was wondering if there is a way have multiple images rotating on the home page?

    1. Not out of the box, but doing random rotations is one of the first ways I learned PHP. I recommend it as a learning project.

  12. Matt,
    That London trip was also the first time you and I met in person.
    I remember it well, not only for meeting you and Mark and others, but because I missed my last train home and ended up sleeping on Khaled’s floor!


  13. It is wonderful to hear the story behind these images. I’m using the gorgeous concave image on my site now. People seem to see many different things in it, and I’ve started comparing it to a Rorschach test. Thank you for the beauty!

  14. Twenty Ten has changed the whole image of default theme. But I didn’t know that the header images were personally taken by you. Nice images. But I still wonder why the height was kept 2px short of 200 🙂

  15. I really like this new default theme, and it’s cool to learn that these are your photos, Matt. Nice.

    Will twenty-ten be getting a text colour option feature for links?

  16. The headers images are nice in their way but I’m rather disappointed. They really are rather “same old thing”. I’d anticipated that something called “Twenty Ten” might be more urban, industrial, artistic, original or avant garde.

  17. the photos are simply gorgeous. I love them all equally that it’s hard for me to choose. I’m currently using a custom header made by my friend, but they are just great. ^^

  18. I loved the mosque photo as soon as I saw it and use it for the header on my 2010 auxiliary blog, Cooking Simple Food (a nascent blog where I test widgets and other features).

    Only now do I see its origin. This is special to me, as my mother was born in India, and she and my father visited the Taj Mahal before they married. This photos speaks to me.

    Thank you,


  19. Amazingly, just these headers are the ‘headers’ I liked in recent days!

    I liked the photo most when “the sun was starting to set” 😉

    thanks for sharing these headers. 🙂

  20. Love the photos and am loving the way wordpress is so easy to use! I’m one of the millions of people in the great divide between computer expert & churning your own butter. So thanks for making blogging super duper easy.

  21. Cool photos, Matt! And thanks also for the additional infos on them. Do you have a special photo site beside this one, where one could learn more about your photography, or is it all just here in your gallery?


  22. When I installed WP, the first thing I wanted to do was to change the default theme – But when I looked at the image (First one, man walking alone towards blarney castle), I realized how beautifully it was taken and how accurately it fits with the title (Destination Infinity) of my blog! And later on, I found out that this theme has one of the best typography and fonts (by default) and can display photos excellently… Thanks a Ton for the theme and your photo Matt – Both are AWESOME 🙂

  23. Gang, I stumbled upon this site AFTER I went through my entire photo collection (I’m amateur, so don’t get too excited) and created 38 banners because I absolutely ADORE the new Twenty Ten theme and WordPress 3.x BUT I wanted to start using photos that I had shot and especially those that are representative of where I live and play. They are all at the requisite 198 x 940 and I stuck them at: I would be totally HONORED if anyone wanted to use any of these for their banner.

    I shot every one of these on my own camera equipment and release any and all copyright and all that. Just use them and enjoy if you want. In my humble opinion, some of them actually turned out great. But then again, I adore the Palouse, deserts, and virtually anything nature-ey.

    I also decided rather than try to do fancy banner rotation, I’d just use the Featured Image feature of WordPress to change images for various posts or pages on my site. I’m a recent convert to using WordPress for my entire site (e.g., my CMS) and couldn’t be happier! Thanks to ALL who worked on WordPress…you folks rock!


    Kevin B. Selby

  24. Just happened to come across this post as I’m thinking of changing my theme when WP 3.6 comes out later this month. I love, love, love the images. Also, I’m sad I somehow missed out on the info that each post could have its own banner image. Something like that with categories would be pretty neat.

    It’s funny, back when WP first came it, it was a badge of shame (on some parts of the net) to be using the default WP themes vs customization and/or getting a new theme. But the recent releases have been so awesome that I’m thinking of going with Twenty Thirteen for my theme refresh.