I remember being nervous about putting them on. I stood there, thinking: "what if they don’t work, or what if I am scared to take them off?" With one deep breath, I slid them over my eyes, and a curtain of vivid color filled my vision.
I recently had an article published about being a color blind photographer and the challenges I face out in the field and during post-processing. The article shined light on the fact that even though I’m unable to see all of the colors, there are still ways to figure out what is in the shot. If you want to read that article, click here. Today’s article is about what happened after the original article was published and how it changed my life.
The day after my article went live, I woke up to an email from a man named Kent Streeb from EnChroma. Enchroma is a company that creates color blind correction glasses. They help the eye compensate for the colors that it doesn’t receive. I had contemplated getting a pair in the past, but more pressing things kept popping up in my life. So, it is safe to say that I was excited to see the email from Kent.
I just read your excellent story about color blindness and photography. Can I send you a pair of special EnChroma glasses that enable the color blind to see colors better? Joel Grimes has tried them and many prominent creatives such as Daniel Arsham, Luke Jerram, Oskar Enander, rock star Neil Young and many others.
I took a test on the EnChroma website to confirm the right pair to meet my needs. The results were encouraging, because it meant I had a 80 percent chance of responding favorably to the glasses. Since every human eye is distinct and our neurological pathways are all different, there is always a chance that nothing would change with the glasses. Kent warned me about this, but was optimistic about the outcome.
A few weeks later, I received the glasses in the mail, which included an outdoor pair and an indoor pair. It took every bit of willpower I had not to open the package and put them on right away. I wanted the moment to be special, so I decided to wait until I had the chance to try them during a beautiful sunrise. That part was harder than expected. Since it was the dead of winter here in Canada, many days were grey skies and -30 C — ot really the right conditions to try the glasses. Months later, I was packing up to head back to Iceland for the third time with a dear friend and fantastic photographer, Rachel Jones Ross. As I was packing up, I mentioned to my family I would try the glasses when I got back, but they all told me to try them in Iceland. They knew how much I loved it there and how much it would mean to me to see my favorite place in the world with a fresh perspective.
The Big Day
Rachel and I had been up all night chasing the Aurora over the Icelandic landscape, ending up at a beautiful black sand beach covered in ice flowers at the foot of Vesturhorn. This is easily my favorite location on the entire island. We were still out shooting the light show as the sun started to rise over the ocean. Rachel noticed the blue of the sky was yielding to an inferno of color, so she turned to me and asked, “Is it time to try the glasses?” We took a break from our cameras and set up to record the moment I put on the glasses. We were both not ready for what came next.
I remember being nervous about putting them on. I stood there, thinking: "what if they don’t work, or what if I am scared to take them off?" With one deep breath, I slid them over my eyes and a curtain of vivid color filled my vision. Instantly, I was at a loss for words, frozen in place at what I was seeing. Right away, I saw the orange hues explode across the sky, then I started to see the rich pink that I had never seen before. Finally, I turned around and saw the deep purple and soft pink in the opposite side of the sky.
I couldn’t help but think that this wasn’t real. I felt like there was no way I had been missing this much color all my life. I kept asking Rachel what colors were in the sky to see if I was right. It was like I was learning colors all over again. Spots of the sky that were grey seconds ago were now bursting with color. I was truly blown away at what I saw, and I didn’t want to take them off. We both were so enchanted by the moment we forgot that we were out there to take photos. I snapped a few more shots from my camera after we stopped recording, and then, I just sat there watching the color in the sky.
I posted the video to my YouTube channel for everyone to see what happened. Let’s just say the glasses became really foggy from extra moisture in the air, or maybe it was from my eyes. I can’t remember. Here is the image I took that morning seeing color for the first time! You can see more from this trip over at my instagram account @dw_photo_ca.
Before I write this part, I want to make it clear that Enchroma has not paid me or offered any other form of compensation.
Leading up to trying the glasses, my world was dull. The colors that everyone else sees are muted for me or not present at all. I look back on my life and could share so many stories about how this affected me. From the early days coloring as a kid to now in my career as a photographer, everything has been touched by my color blindness. I have come to realize that being able to see color is a huge part of the human experience, and without it, you can miss out on some of the best details in life. The moment I put on the glasses and saw the colors for the first time, my heart and soul were filled with pure joy.
People have asked me if the glasses are worth it or if they work. I can say for myself: yes, they worked and yes, they are worth it. To have even the slightest chance at seeing the world’s beauty in full color is worth it. Personally, it gave me a new perspective on our world, and professionally, it made me appreciate my craft even more. I think these glasses can give you insight into what is in your environment and understand the subtle blends between colors.
The team at EnChroma are some of the kindest and most caring people I have met. The fact that a company exists to help better people's lives is a testament to their vision.
I have spent my life chasing great locations, great light, and great colors. It wasn’t until today that I saw all three for the first time.