Viewfinders unveil fall colors for the colorblind
Viewfinders unveil fall colors for the colorblind This Oct. 26, 2017 photo shows Amber McCarter, a 22-year-old from Tennessee who is colorblind, looking out from Mt. Harrison at the Ober Gatlinburg resort through a viewfinder designed to help see more colors. (AP Photo/Jonathan Matisse/Flickr)
Viewfinders unveil fall colors for the colorblind
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The Great Smoky Mountains always looked dull black and tawny to Lauren Van Lew from the 3,590-foot-high perch of Mt. Harrison. That was true even when the rugged expanses were bursting with their famous fall colors. 

The 20-year-old Van Lew has been colorblind her whole life. Some colors have just been left to the imagination. She loves painting, but her wife Molly has to help her pick and mix colors.

Last week Van Lew visited the scenic mountaintop again. She looked through a special viewfinder. For the first time she saw yellows. She saw oranges and she saw reds. They were exploding across the landscape.

"Red was the biggest difference. I mean, I can't describe it," said Van Lew. She lives in Sevierville, Tennessee. "It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life. That red, it's just gorgeous. It's incredible."

She wondered, "How do you see like that all of the time?"

A colorblind viewfinder was installed atop the Ober Gatlinburg resort. It was installed by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development. It is one of three in the state that debuted last Wednesday. It lets people gaze upon colors that they may have never seen before. The other two viewfinders are at scenic areas of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area near Oneida. The other is at the westbound Interstate 26 overlook near Erwin in Unicoi County.

The technology isn't new, it consists of eyeglasses that let colorblind people see colors. But state officials believe this is the first time it's been incorporated into a viewfinder. They cost $2,000 apiece. They help people with red-green color deficiencies. How crisply the viewfinders display new colors can vary from person to person among the 13 million or so people in the country with color deficiencies.

State tourism officials invited people to try it out last Thursday at Ober Gatlinburg. They brought them up by ski-lift, but left the details somewhat vague. They wanted to maintain the element of surprise. A crew filmed their reactions for marketing material.

Their first glimpses drew tears, smiles and faces stunned by wonder and awe.

"My heart just started beating fast," said Todd Heil, who generally sees a lot of green. "I felt like crying, man. Too many people around."

Amber McCarter works in real estate, so part of her pitch is the fall foliage that drapes the Great Smoky Mountains, even though she can't entirely see it herself. The viewfinder gave her a firsthand look of the views she's been selling.

"It's like, if you want to go see a show somewhere, you don't want to hear from somebody whose family went. You want to hear from somebody who actually went," the 22-year-old said.

For Van Lew, nothing looks the same now. It can be a little disheartening to know what she's been missing. But the possibility of tapping into a long unseen world of vibrant color is uplifting, she added.

"It's going to enable more people to experience the beauty that we live in, that I didn't know we lived in," she said.

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Why are leaves a good subject for viewfinder?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • Rachelk-eic
    8/31/2018 - 02:31 p.m.

    In the fall there are a lot of colors. It is good that the color blind can enjoy it when they get a chance.

  • Alexr-eic
    10/04/2018 - 10:14 a.m.

    I think it's pretty cool that there are glasses that can colorblind see some colors like red and yellow and I'm happy because one person who was a painter finally saw red,yellow,and orange

  • calebr-orv2
    10/10/2018 - 09:54 p.m.

    Leaves are a good subject for viewfinding because they can come in many colors, shapes, and sizes.

  • ygadh-wim4
    10/12/2018 - 11:43 a.m.

    leaves are a good subject for viewfinder because they help the colorblind to see the colors of the trees, cause in the fall there a lot of colors which are really beautiful and a color to the nature and even the people are colorblind think them that they cured alot.

  • zpetr-wim4
    10/12/2018 - 11:47 a.m.

    The reason leaves are a good subject for the viewfinder because in the fall the leaves are so beautiful and for someone to not be able to see it it would be horrible and now with the viewfinder anyone that can not see it now has the ability to so the beauty.

  • cmanz-wim5
    10/12/2018 - 12:49 p.m.

    Leaves are a good subject for viewfinders because leaves are all different colors and hues. You can see and experience all the vibrant and beautiful colors. You can see red, green, yellow.

  • mshaw-wim5
    10/12/2018 - 12:50 p.m.

    I believe leaves are a good subject because they are very bright and colorful. Especially in the fall, when the leaves are all different colors. They are red, yellow, even orange. All of them are very vibrant and most likely contrast from each other. The red leaves, combined with yellow, will stand out very easily. The leaves are beautiful in the fall.

  • Jack-E2
    10/15/2018 - 11:04 a.m.

    Viewfinders Unveil Fall Colors for the colorblind
    This article was about fall colors for the colorblind. I think that this article was very interesting. I think we should keep trying to find answers. We should keep improving life for others.

  • Kiarah-eic
    10/15/2018 - 11:22 a.m.

    This leaf is pretty and it is very colorful,it would be a good wall paper for a phone or something.

  • Kelseya-eic
    10/15/2018 - 11:24 a.m.

    They help people see colors who are color blind

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