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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

Lauren is the editor of Digital Photographer magazine, a practical-focused publication that inspires hobbyists and seasoned pros alike to take truly phenomenal shots and get the best results from their kit. 

An experienced photography journalist who has been covering the industry for over seven years, she has served as technique editor for both PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine

PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine and DCW's sister publication, Digital Camera Magazine

In addition to techniques and tutorials that enable you to achieve great results from your cameras, lenses, tripods and other photography equipment, Lauren can regularly be found interviewing some of the biggest names in the industry, sharing tips and guides on subjects like landscape and wildlife photography, and raising awareness for subjects such as mental health and women in photography.