Leaves in shades of green, yellow, red, orange and brown fall gently from the sky. The color of the image is vibrant at the top and less saturated at the bottom.

And the Colours Fade....

One of the early symptoms of macular degeneration is our colours start to lose their vibrancy.

Working at a photographic studio and camera store

My first real job, meaning one for which I got paid, started when I was about 13. The family business was a photographic studio and camera store. My father was the photographer, my mother and I did hand colouring using photo oils. Direct colour was still in its infancy then and the colours were not as permanent as they are today. A hand-coloured portrait was a lasting gift to be treasured. Besides the usual family portraits and weddings, we also hand-coloured black and white local scenes, which, when mounted and beautifully framed, became pieces of art. These sold mostly to tourists, but a number of the town’s residents also bought them as gifts for family and friends far away. I discovered one listed recently in an online art auction!

Sadly reminded of macular degeneration

Fast forward to retirement:

I had a long-neglected box of negatives, slides, and prints sitting on the shelf in the closet, waiting for when I had more free time to organize properly. This COVID-19 time-out seemed perfect.

I knew that memories of my children when they were young would bring a few happy tears. But I was sadly reminded of my macular degeneration when I came across the black and white “island scenes” my father had taken. I had long ago asked my sister to print these out for me with the thought that this would be my perfect retirement hobby. I still have the photo oils and surprisingly they’re still useable.

Deteriorating colour vision

My macular degeneration is still not greatly affecting my ability to do most things. At least with the help of good lighting, and sometimes magnifying glasses. But one way it lets me down right now is in my colour vision. That’s been gradually deteriorating.  If I had done these when I first retired, or in the intervening years, they would be hanging on my wall. Great reminders of my family, and my home on the other side of the country. But then again, it’s the doing I most enjoy.

Vibrancy has become faded and greyed out

I can still see the vibrant reds and blues, but they’ve now become slightly more faded and a bit greyed out. I have difficulty with the more muted tones, especially the blues and greens. Have you ever really looked at how many different shades of yellow and green there are on the trees, especially in the spring? I remember well enough that I could still paint the colours by name, and most are quite visible but the necessary blending would be the challenge.

Savoring the vision I have

I know this sounds quite depressing, but a bit of faded colour is not really a big deal. Even though I can’t see the colours as well as I’d like, I can still see them. I am so happy I delved into this box of memories now, just in case my vision deteriorates past that little smudge already there. Now, I think I should frame those black and white photos of home, put them in a place of honour on my wall and enjoy them the way dad took them.

Have you also found something you may have delayed a little too long? Or something that your macular degeneration changed enough that it surprised you? Do it now, don’t wait until you can’t!

If your colours are fading, which part of the spectrum is the most noticeable? Join the discussion!

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