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Shining Achievements
The Aesthetic Qualities of Landscape Lighting

Shining Achievements

This example of uplighting is achieved with 5000K LED lights from Garden Light's Visionary series. Robert Davie of Robert Davie & Associates Landscaping installed the lighting while working on this project in Sarasota, Fla.


Shining Achievements

This tree is a centerpiece to an estate located in San Marino, Calif. The lighting was designed and installed by Chuck Evans of Illuminated Concepts. Evans used a total of fourteen lights to accent the tree, seven up-lights and seven moonlights. Some of the up-lights were focused on the main trunk and branches from the ground and halfway up the tree. Evans installed some other lights further away from the trunk to highlight the expansive canopy of the tree. Evans states that he really wanted to accent the soft groundcover that surrounded the tree. Moonlights from the large tree gave life to this beautiful surface.


Shining Achievements

mixture of downlighting, seen in front of the fireplace and screen works with uplighting, seen on the trees behind the screen, to properly showcase a dynamic landscape.


One of the purposes of the landscaping industry is to highlight the beauty of outdoor environments. Whether that entails the maintenance of a natural landscape or the design and installation of beautiful features into a residential or public area, landscaping is about shaping the outdoors into an aesthetically pleasant space. But, if the landscape cannot be seen, it cannot be enjoyed.
This is why outdoor lighting is so important in the landscaping industry. It ensures that clients or the public can take in the beauty of a landscape at all hours and lighting levels. However, while lighting is an excellent tool to view landscape features, sometimes the lights themselves can be the main attraction.

A Little Light Goes a Long Way
While people need light in order to enjoy beautiful landscapes when the sun goes down, intensity does not usually spell success. Super bright hot spots, which attract attention but do not properly highlight the surrounding area, can often cause glare and hurt people's eyes. Each area of a landscape into which lighting is introduced should have one primary focal point and a couple of secondary focal points.

To create a calming and balanced lighting environment one should use minimal wattage and light intensity unless there is good reason to do otherwise. When it comes to lighting up the outdoors after dark, less is more. In order to create a dynamic look, one should take advantage of the difference between dark and light by optimizing shadows. Highlighting a few key sections of the landscape is more effective than lighting up the night at large. In addition, one should use fixtures to create a lighting effect without focusing on the fixture, unless the fixture itself is a work of art.

Ways to Light Up the Dark
Two basic styles of outdoor lighting are area and accent lighting. Area lighting is generally achieved with fixtures placed above and/or below eye level such that beam spreads overlap, typically bathing the region in fairly uniform light without accentuation on any specific objects. Area lighting can also be done on a decorative basis. According to an article about landscape lighting in Electrical Contractor Magazine, area lighting is the most common type of lighting for commercial lighting jobs and is often "the biggest part of the job in terms of money spent."

It is usually possible to combine various lighting techniques for overall desired effect. Unlike area lighting, accent lighting is used to highlight a specific feature and immediately bring people's attention to that particular spot. Accent lighting works best when it focuses on specific focal points, lights up objects of particular interest or uses light to set a mood.

In a presentation that can be found on the Illuminating Engineering Society's website, lighting designers Paul Mercier, the design principal of Lighting Design Innovations, and the company's managing principal Kimberly Mercier discuss the feeling that contractors can create with different types of lighting. Speaking about creating spaces that are interesting to people, Paul says an area "requires different uniformities, different highlights in the space. In other words, non-uniform brightness or high contrast ratios."

On the other hand, Paul says, "We can get spaces that just provide too much stimulation, too much contrast. If you think about Times Square or Las Vegas, most people recognize the fact that after a certain period of time, they feel slightly agitated, and the reason why is because their brain is working so hard in order to be able to interpret very mixed ideas and concepts because of the really bright versus the dark contrast." In order to avoid this type of overwhelming environment, Kimberly advises professionals to "plan brilliance" in the initial stages of a project and to "establish a hierarchy and flow of light." Contractors can use several different types of lighting to achieve a balanced, yet exciting flow of light in a landscape.

Uplighting
One can use ground level floods, bullets, well lights, or (totally sealed) direct burial fixtures to shine up and illuminate features, such as trees, statuary, stone wall or other architectural focal points in the landscape, dramatically from below. Because the lens and lamp of well lights are shielded from view, this type of fixture is particularly well suited to locations where the avoidance of glare is a prime consideration.



Shining Achievements

This art installation is on the same property that Chuck Evans worked on in San Marino, Calif. The three-piece acrylic sculpture acts as a backdrop for a large gazebo on the property, and Evans wanted to make it stand out. To do this, he used colors that are national colors for the client's home country. Evans installed five wash floodlights with blue-green theatrical lighting gels in the lens of the fixtures to make the acrylic sculpture glow.


Shining Achievements

Lighting installed at the top of this pergola casts a soft light over the entire enclosure. It is aided by grazing lights installed by the bushes in the foreground.


Shining Achievements

A combination of wash lighting, downlighting and uplighting create an even glow under this pergola.


Various styles of fixtures installed under a tree or a grove of trees can provide uplighting that leaves a dramatic impact. Where a flush surface is not required, one can elevate the fixture a couple of inches and slope the concrete away from the lens for drainage.

Downlighting
Downlighting is a technique that uses bullets or other accent lights that shine down from a higher elevation to illuminate shrubbery, flowerbeds and pathways from above. This helps hide the less attractive parts of the bushes in the shadows while drawing attention to the fuller greenery. In addition, installing fixtures for downlighting higher up can bathe a large area with light from above, allowing full appreciation of a large landscaped space.

Moonlighting
Moonlighting is a subcategory of downlighting that uses high lights positioned in a tree or atop a fence to filter down through foliage and to cast subtle shadows on the ground below, much as could be seen on a clear, moonlit night. The higher and deeper the fixture is placed inside a tree, the lower the light level and the greater the shadows, creating a dramatic effect.

Silhouetting
Silhouetting can also be called backlighting. This entails using lights behind and below a tree or statue, in front of a wall or fence. One should place the light source between the object that should be highlighted (a setting of trees in front of the home, for example) and the wall of the house.

Grazing
Placing the fixture close to the surface and directing the light upward at a 45-degree angle accentuates the texture of the surface one wishes to illuminate. This can highlight plant materials or decorative pavers in the evening.

Washing
When using wash lights, one should place the light to the side of the landscape that will be illuminated and allow the light to bathe the entire area in light. This creates a soft glow that permeates the entire space.

Spotlighting
Spotlighting involves the use of narrowly focused beams from above (perhaps mounted on a wall or pole) or below. This technique is effective on statues, sculptures, various garden elements, flagpoles and other architectural details.

Lighting in Water
Adding water and lighting together can highlight a pool or water feature as well as turn light into a glimmering, dancing image in the landscape. There are several different water features that can benefit from aesthetic lighting.



Shining Achievements

Well lights uplight the trees, throwing every leaf into stark relief and creating a textured effect.


Shining Achievements

These light features were installed by Davie at the Sarasota project. The marine-grade stainless steel panels came with a preset design in the form of four 4'x8' sheets that were each cut into four pieces. Davie and his team cut holes in the foam-core wall and ran wiring through it, covering the holes with mesh, a stucco finish and paint. The panels were then mounted, along with an outdoor transformer, on the wall. Behind the panels are IP67 waterproof 6500K LED strip lights, with the power source set on a timer.


Shining Achievements

From below Soft Kichler 12V LED Accent Light with Variable Lumen Output (VLO) spotlights highlight the natural shadows that are found on the rough surface of the rocks that form this natural-style waterfall. The light is reflected in the waterfall itself, creating a shimmer effect as the water moves.


Underwater lighting is an excellent option when it comes to making the most of water features. For example, adding lighting to a pond can allow clients to watch backlit koi swimming among the reeds after dark. However, one should make sure to provide unlit areas for fish to hide if they want to - it is important to create a landscape that is a good environment for both people and the creatures that share the space.
As for water features that do not harbor wildlife, there are so many options. Underwater lighting can provide an ambient glow in a pool or highlight falling water in a fountain.

There are many aspects to consider when adding light to a fountain. Often, landscape professionals use strategically placed submersible lights to illuminate such a feature. This creates shadowing effects and makes the water feature visually appealing. However, it is not always necessary to submerse lights into water to achieve these interesting effects.

Multiple light sources make the space more intriguing and make the moving water shimmer.

Most fountains are built to be viewed from multiple angles, so one can utilize several methods to highlight the feature. One should consider the surrounding space and work with the available landscape. A large nearby tree could be incorporated, shining downlights onto the fountain from above.

If one is using submersible lights, when the lights are placed under water, some of the output is lost. Depending on the water's depth and clarity, extra wattage may need to be factored into the situation. However, the lights should not be so bright that they create a glare. This problem can be minimized with proper fixture placement. The lighting should be viewed from all angles before the project is completed to make sure the lighting is not causing an irritating glare.

Spotlight on Light
While outdoor lighting can be used to beautifully and tastefully display outdoor features, one can also use light as a feature all on its own. If a client is searching for something that will set a landscape apart from others, special lighting features can attract the attention, not just with their light, but also with their striking design. Whether the lights themselves create the effect or a shadow that is cast by a pattern covering the light, special lighting features can add interest and aesthetic value to a landscape. One way to create an interesting feature with outdoor lighting is to place a design over lighting in order to create bright patterns that cast a gentle glow while displaying a pleasing image.

Adding colors to landscape lighting can also create an artistic aesthetic in a space. However, not all colors can be soothing or exciting when used for certain features or areas. For instance, while yellow can enhance the natural colors of plants with yellowish-green leaves, according to plantcaretoday.com, it can deaden the color of grass and foliage. Blue light can look eerie in some settings, but when it is used to enhance the look of blue-green foliage, it can create a cool and calm aesthetic. Red light is best for areas that will be viewed from a distance, as it can give off the appearance of soft firelight from far away but is usually too intense for large, close features.
Clients who care about the effects that lights have on both their neighbors driving by and the night sky will be happy to use colored landscape lighting. It produces six times less light pollution than white lights.

Conclusion
There are nearly limitless options to transform a landscape with lighting. Whether a client wants to change the mood of his landscape in the evening, highlight an architectural feature or even create a work of art, light can offer several different solutions.
A landscape that soothes by day can dazzle by night. One should never underestimate the aesthetic difference that can be made by well-used and well-placed landscape lighting.



As seen in LC/DBM magazine, November 2018.



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December 11, 2018, 10:06 pm PST

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