Photographer Seeing Full Color for the First Time!

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.

Hi David,

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.

Conclusion

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.

Thank you.

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25 Comments

JetCity Ninja's picture

i'm happy that you not only had the opportunity, but more importantly the choice, to experience color after a lifetime of not seeing them the way others do. congratulations!

and to experience an icelandic sunrise as your first, full color experience had to be mindblowing. i cant even begin to imagine not just how it felt in the moment, but how you'll carry that image with you for the rest of your life.

David Wilder's picture

Thank you for the kind words. It really was the most important point in my life so far. The fact that I got to see the colours was incredible. I just hope others see the potential in themselves with or without the glasses.

Steve Molder's picture

A couple of years ago I was in an accident involving head trauma that resulted in traumatic optic neuropathy (vision loss) in my left eye. Not only did it affect the use of my viewfinder eye, but a whole lifestyle change. I never take my remaining eyesight for granted and shoot now more than ever. And it sounds like you have always done the same. Kudos!

Thanks for sharing your inspiring story and congratulations on seeing in color! This gives me hope that someday in the future I may be able to correct or improve my hindered vision. Medical technology is a wonderful thing!

David Wilder's picture

Steve thank you for sharing such a close and delicate part of yourself and your story. That is very brave of you.

I can only imagine what it is like to have this happen and it drastically affect your life. I honestly feel lucky that all I am dealing with is colour.

I pray that the medical technology is there just waiting to be approved for you so that you can get back to a place you want to be.

I am also very humbled that this gives you some hope.

Plus your work is epic dude! Your compositing is awesome. I could learn a thing or two from ya.

Steve Molder's picture

Thanks so much David! Keep up the great work yourself. Cheers!

jacob kerns's picture

These are the type of stories that need to be on Fstoppers. Inspirational, not negative ones.

David Wilder's picture

Thank you for that. I truly believe we can make the world such an awesome place when we try to inspire others. Thank you!!!

Nathan Elson's picture

Someone had shared a video I made about being a colour blind commercial photographer on your last post, and these glasses have always intrigued me, but I've been a little nervous about trying them for fear they wouldn't do what I hoped :)

Glad to see this worked out for you my friend.

Cheers
-Nate

JetCity Ninja's picture

sorry, that was me. i'm a subscriber to your youtube channel. started following you after seeing you featured by the DPReview (formerly TCSTV) guys, Chris and Jordan.

just a big fan of the moody, contrasty look you give your monochrome portraits.

Nathan Elson's picture

Thanks dude, much appreciated.

David Wilder's picture

Hey Nathan

I remember seeing that post and watching your video. Really well done! I hear you on the fear part but in the end what do we really have to loose? We are already colour blind right That’s how I thought about it, we can only gain.

Even if there is a fraction of a chance I would try. Dude I straight up cried like a baby when I saw the colours appear.

If you choose to try them one day I pray they work for you as well my friend. There is nothing like see the world with all the colours.

David

Unfortunately, EnChroma doesn't work for every case. I'm color blind, I did a test with the EnChroma and the result wasn't showing any benefit. But I know for others they do work, so, I'm glad to see in this case they worked :)

David Wilder's picture

Yeah it tough when every eye is unique and the pathways to our brain are often different. I could only imagine how that must have felt getting that news. I really hope that something comes out in the future that could improve that. Medical advancements are made everyday.

I'm another photog where the EnChroma have only a 20% chance of working on me and I'm elated to hear of your success and happiness with seeing colors in their more true form.

I struggle at times knowing I see only 1/10 of the colors normal visioned people see. Stories like yours give me hope that one day there might be something for me as well.

David Wilder's picture

Peter thank you... I hope that with each coming day the technology gets closer.

Michael Wolf's picture

Great Article! I have myself a red-green colorblindness, and until some months ago, I didn't even knew that such glasses, which can give you back the colors, even existed. I think I should try time too sometime :)

Allan Morris's picture

David,
Thank you for sharing your experience, I too am like Michael Wolf, I have partial red and green and have dealt with color cast issues all my life, it is definitely affected by light brightness levels, As an artist in my younger years I always struggled with painting and being able to mix the correct color hues etc in my painting to be able to accurately depict colors in my paintings and would get so frustrated with it that my medium of choice was pencil, this allowed for better representations of tone through shading the lights and shadows and adjust for the tonal range with light or heavy pencil strokes and only in my 20's started to get in to photography, I'm 45 now, but there are times when I have really struggled with color.
So when I discovered Colorimeters to calibrate my monitor, I knew that as long as the monitor was calibrated that I would be able to artistically/creatively adjust my photos closer to what I should be seeing.
I went to a Scott Kelby seminar years ago in Tampa and colorimeters came up, I raised my hand and said that for me a colorimeter is a necessary tool for me to help with a disability and to make sure that my eyes stay calibrated, and mentioned my red green colorblindness, with the intent of maybe allow other colorblind photographers who too were at that seminar and were frustrated with their work and help them to realize that a colorimeter can help them greatly.

Again thank you for sharing your experience with the enchroma glasses, maybe one day I too will buy a pair.

keep up the great work

Allan

David Wilder's picture

Allan thank you for telling your story. I am so glad to hear you have found tools that help you. I will have to check this app out.

Allan Morris's picture

David, the colorimeter is basically a USB connected device and used in conjunction with the provided software from the manufacturer, the device when you need to calibrate moved into position and sits on the screen, usually in the center and the software when it is enabled then shows colors for the device to read, under the given ambient light levels. There are multiple brands on the market. My particular version is the spyder 3 by Datacolor although this has been superseded by the Spyder X
https://www.datacolor.com/photography-design/

David Wilder's picture

Hey Michael. Thank you. I hope you do try one day. It made my heart so happy to see all the colours out there.

I'm really happy for you.
I'm wondering if you plan to re-process your old photos now that you can turn a new "eye" on them

Regards

Allan Morris's picture

David, I agree with Anthony, I would like to see a side by side comparison of what you originally processed for your level of colorblindness and then an updated version with the glasses, just so that it can shed further light (no pun) for those who have good color vision and allow them a better understanding of a colorblind persons daily struggle.

David Wilder's picture

I agree. Working on this real soon!

David Wilder's picture

That is certainly in the works!!!

Torben Christensen's picture

Hi
Thanks for a good article.
I am a wedding photographer based out of Denmark
I am also colorblind.
I always use my wife to do the final edit on my pictures.
I have known EnChroma for many years. But the problem was, that you could not get them in Europe.
But yesterday day I discovered that a shop 15 min from where I live has started to sell them.
So I have a appointment with them I about 4 hours.
I am really looking forward to trying them.

But why have I not just purchase them from US?
Because I don’t think that this could be real.

But in 5 hours I know it.
Best regards
Torben