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Colourblind landscape photographer sees sunrise colours for the first time

(Image credit: David Wilder)
Meet the pro: David Wilder

David Wilder

(Image credit: David Wilder)

David is a landscape, commercial and fine-art photographer based in Canada. He often runs workshops in the Rockies. Head here to watch a video of David experiencing sunrise colours for the first time with a special pair of glasses

Much like life, photography has many challenges. Sometimes it is about applying the knowledge of a technique, or being in the right place at the right time, but it can also include physical challenges. 

I have a specific colour-blindness called deuteranopia that affects reds and greens in my vision, and I have struggled with colours as far back as I can remember. Besides some odd clothing combinations, it wasn’t until I started taking photos that I noticed the challenge.

Like many budding photographers, I started out by shooting headshots of musicians and model portfolios. 

Back in those days, I would send images to a client, and they would ask why their skin looked “off”. My response was usually, “Oh, I gave you a bit of a tan”, not realising that what I’d done was make them look like the previous US president...

This prompted my love for black-and-white photography. I would turn everything greyscale, no matter what it was, and figured if I couldn’t use colour correctly then I wouldn’t use it at all; an approach that went on for years. 

Eventually, clients wanted more than just black-and-white images, and so I started to outsource the colour correction to a friend of mine. Through that process I started to understand what tanned skin looked like – among other tones. I was able to change my editing techniques to make the skin look “correct”. 

When I started shooting landscapes I realised what was causing my downfall. My early work was over-processed, saturated, often looking psychedelic. Again, it took friends and family to point these things out for me to make the connection.

Discovering the challenges I have could have stopped me from enjoying photography. There are so many things in the world that are rich with vivid colour, and I only see the dull version of it.

But this has made me even more thankful for what I do have as a sighted person and a photographer. I focus more on other aspects of my images, like composition and technique, which allow my shots to still be strong.

Whatever challenge you face, I hope my story can inspire you to find a way to do what you love.

David Wilder

Now, thankfully, science and a few smart people have developed glasses that allow me to see colour in all its glory. But that’s a tale for another time… My hope is that my work and my experience can be a light for others who struggle in their craft. 

Whatever challenge you face, I hope my story can inspire you to find a way to do what you love.

Read more: 
The best cameras for landscapes
How to capture luscious landscape lighting
10 landscape photographers you should follow in 2021