Streetlights are going and some photographers love it.

photo of house lit by street lamp

For at least a couple of years now, as more and more urban street lights all over the world are converted to LED versions, people have been reporting that some of these lamps, sometimes, change over to a sort of purple tone.

The color of this can be described as a mix between kitschy concert music light and what you’d see in a cheap Lovecraft-inspired horror movie. However you want to interpret it, many people have been annoyed, some photographers included.

Other camera-toting creatives have on the other hand learned to love these occasional deviations into purple.

From cities as diverse as Vancouver on the west coast to NYC on the U.S. eastern seaboard, people have been randomly noting some streetlights in certain areas turning purple.

In some cities, such as Vancouver, the numerous calls coming in by residents who noticed the color change even prompted municipal authorities to rush out and replace the lights.

Other places where they’ve been reported include many U.S. and overseas cities, causing no shortage of annoyed residential observers. In other cases, the opposite reaction has happened for artistic reasons.

One photographer, Selina Roman, in Florida even started making a habit of specifically seeking out streets or areas with purple LED streetlights. In a comment to the Tampa Bay Times she explains, “I love the idea that this was a mistake or a glitch, but I find them magical,”


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A post shared by Selina Roman (@selinaroman)

Her photos on Instagram show that she’s found a way to appreciate the color change. Ss a result, she’s received even more tips from viewers of her feed about other purpled-out lights they’ve found in her city.

She adds that she then hurries to catch a shot or even do a quick photo shoot before local authorities replace the bulbs with white versions once again.

While for many, the reason for this has been annoying and a bit mysterious, it has a pretty simple cause.

Ultimately the randomly purple lights are defective and caused by the LEDs inside these street lamps wearing down the coating on the light-diffusing outer shell that surrounds them.

The apparent white color isn’t from the LEDs themselves in many cases but instead comes from being filtered through an outer film on the plastic or glass cases surrounding the LED arrays inside a street lamp.

When this happens, passersby suddenly start to see a purple-tinted, bright light that’s deeply annoying to some, while inspiring to others.

Jeff Brooks, a representative of Duke Power in the U.S. explains, “It’s something we began seeing about two years ago,” He then elaborates, “There’s a laminate on the fixture that gives it its white color. As that laminate began to degrade, it caused the color tint to change toward purple.”

This would be understandably irritating to anyone living near these lights, who probably just wants to look out their window without being reminded of a B-grade monster movie.

For photography though, it shows just what kinds of odd little details we can take advantage of for a bit of creative output.

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