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Lighting 201
Advanced Basics of Lighting Design

by Bruce Dennis | Lightcraft Outdoor Environments

Lighting 201

I am often asked, what creates a good lighting project? Many professional books have been written on this topic and countless week-long workshops on landscape lighting have been conducted, but I am here to inform you that proper landscape lighting is not such a difficult task. So, without further ado, I will highlight a few, what I consider important aspects, of good lighting design.

An Overview of Designing a Lighting Plan
First and foremost, it is important to think like an artist. One should try to light like an artist, using proper light levels and Kelvin colors that match the feel and layout of the landscape. Part of this is illuminating focal points of the landscape; these can be art installments, unique trees or an architectural feature. Additionally, attempt to establish a sense of rhythm and continuity by having an even and balanced lighting design that includes matching LED fixtures, Kelvin colors and a seamless flow throughout the landscape.

Keep in mind depth and perspective. These can provide visual comfort and harmony because the human eye responds well to layers of transitional lighting that flow easily from zone to zone.

Lighting 201

Lighting 201

Here are two good quality examples because the effect of the lights is seen and not the fixtures. A multitude of different fixtures were used (bullet lights, down lights, waterproof, etc.), the lighting is even throughout the landscapes, all important areas are properly illuminated without glare, and perhaps most importantly, they are all pleasing to look at.

What to Avoid
Try to avoid over lighting the project. One good bit of advice is that sometimes, "less is more." You also want to make sure to not have a "runway" or "landing strip" effect in the landscape,Incandescent Light Bulbs which could result from a bullet light being used where a moon light should have been. Lastly, it is important to try and minimize any glare or direct view of the actual lamp/bulb on the project, as this detracts from the actual amenity being illuminated and can make the area unsafe.

Lighting Techniques
The placement, location and aiming of any fixture is crucial. Here is a breakdown of each type of lighting technique and how to best utilize them.
aEUR? Direct Lighting - Place the fixture directly in front of the object.
aEUR? Indirect Lighting - Place the fixture behind or off to the side of the intended element.
aEUR? Silhouette Lighting - Place fixtures in front of reflective materials by using indirect and shadow casting.
aEUR? Cross Lighting - Place fixtures at various cross angles to cover more area and minimize direct lighting hot spots.
aEUR? Moon Lighting - Place fixture in a downward position, creating a moonlit effect.
aEUR? Mirror Lighting - Cast indirect light onto water features with indirect lighting off of walls or structures.
aEUR? Grazing - Skim architectural elements with light to pick up subtle features and details.
aEUR? Signature Lighting - This can be a number of lighting features that add a specialty touch to the design. For example, Bistro String lighting provides an implied space, providing or enhancing the social environment.

The Importance of Establishing Lighting Zones
Zones, sometimes referred to as circuit runs, help simplify the wiring of a large layout. They can be created with multiple transformers (depending on location and distance) or with a single, multi-tap transformer.

Lighting 201

These are two examples of a bad lighting job because there is too much glare off the water, creating an unpleasant and distracting display. Two ways to fix this are by using a softer Kelvin lightbulb or by simply changing the placement of the fixture.

Specification of distinct lighting zones creates proper layers and lighting transitions, as well as helps identify the location of a power supply. When dealing with multiple connection points, consider a "hub," such as a sprinkler valve box, to centralize the connection points between fixtures.

Lighting Demo
A lighting demo can be very effective in having the client say yes to a lighting plan. In order to do this effectively, begin by setting up a small area to demo. You should have a lighting kit wired and ready to go beforehand. Make sure to place the lights in a key area that can be seen when the client comes home at night.

A good way to sell the project is to leave the lights installed for a small period of time and put in writing that the lights are only temporary, then remove the lights after a few days to stimulate a demand from the client.

Lighting 201

Lighting zones, sometimes referred to as circuit runs, can be created with multiple transformers (depending on location and distance) or with a single multi-tap transformer. Creating a good lighting zone can help simplify the wiring layout and make it easier to fix problems as they arise.

Landscape lighting is an essential and integral part of the landscape design. A little light goes a long way. It is important to note that the designer and contractor understand the basics of LED lighting as it relates to the landscape. As with many schools of thought, keep it simple. LED products are constantly evolving. Please remember to test and validate all new technology. Get well acquainted with your favorite fixture choices and make sure they can be field serviced and updated as new and improved "breakthrough" technology becomes available.

Lighting 201

A Breakdown on Kelvin Colors
One of the ways to describe the appearance of a lighting fixture is by referring to the color temperature of the lightbulb, which is measured in degrees of Kelvin on a scale from 1,000 to upwards of 12,000. relates that, "Typically, Kelvin temperatures for commercial and residential lighting applications fall somewhere on a scale from 2000K to 6500K."

Lower down on the scale (2000K to 3000k), the lights are often referred to as "warm" because they are not as bright as the lights that fall higher up on the scale. "Warm" lights usually produce an orange or yellowish coloration.

Bulbs that measure between 3100K and 4500K can sometimes be called "cool white." These bulbs typically emit a neutral white light or a soft blue tint.

Lastly, bulbs above 4500K are classified as having a "daylight" color temperature. These bulbs are bright, strong, and attempt to mimic a daytime environment. The differences between the Kelvin color ranges can be best noticed when two lights with different temperature bulbs are compared side-by-side. Perhaps you have even noticed this before in your home.

As seen in LASN magazine, April 2019.

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September 21, 2019, 11:29 am PDT

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