Lighting is exciting!
Jack O' Lanterns on Halloween night. Christmas lights
at holiday time. Fourth of July fireworks. A campfire in the
deep woods on a warm summer night. The dark sky presents a
blank canvas to do extraordinary things with light.
Landscape lighting is becoming very popular in New
Hampshire. In the landscape there are opportunities to create a
very different image than what you see in the daytime. Rather
than thinking of night lighting in terms of security lighting,
or to merely expose the obvious, consider these tips and
techniques to apply to your outdoor lighting as an artist uses
brush strokes to create a portrait.
Take a flashlight outside at night and shine it on certain
objects that you think would look good night. Use different
angles and see how that changes the effect. At L.A. Bartlett
Landscapes, LLC we use a demo kit of inexpensive
fixtures to "paint the portrait." This step in the lighting
design process tells us what areas need more light, or what
areas have too much. The lighting design process can save you a
lot of money when professional landscape lighting costs can
reach as much as $200 per fixture. You'll know exactly what you
need before you take a shovel to the ground.
Use levels of light
The objective here is to spread the light around your yard.
Instead of 200 W of floodlights off the corner of the house,
the goal is to break up that concentrated light to cover a
broader area. Identify key objects that you want to highlight.
Those objects, whether it’s foundation or yard structure will
most likely be a brighter light than others. We call this Level
Determine the areas of lowlight such as path lights or deck
lights. This is your Level 1 lighting. Avoid creating "black
holes" between your Level 3 and Level I areas with Level 2
lighting, which may be garden lighting or up lighting vertical
objects like trees or columns.
The trick in applying landscape lighting to your yard is to
conceal the source of the light. The great disadvantage to post
lights, door lights, and security lighting is that the glare
causes your eye to dilate. From a safety standpoint, the eye
has to re-adjust to shadow in order to see stairs or curbing.
This can be especially problematic for the elderly.
In terms of security, the brighter the light the darker the
shadow. While your driveway and front door may be well lit,
there are dark areas not visible around the yard that can
provide hiding places to would-be trespassers. When glare is
simply unavoidable, look for lens options such as hex louvers
or glare shielded fixtures to reduce it as much as
We all know about floodlights to light objects. This is one
method but there are others. Beam control is critical to
produce the desired effect of professional night lighting.
Uplighting is the primary technique in
nightscaping. Up lighting reverses daylight which provides a
negative of what you normally see during the day. Up lighting
fixtures are usually bullytes-tube shaped with glare shields.
Choose a fixture that takes an MR-16 lamp. MR 16 lamps come in
a variety of wattages and degrees, or angle of light.
For taller tree or second story objects, you may need a
narrow spot or a higher wattage to reach the point you are
trying to light. Or you may want a flood to spread a softer,
lighter beam. Some MR 16's are also colored for holiday
Wall Washing puts a
soft, wide glow on vertical surfaces like house foundations or
stonewalls. As it is a floodlight, it will not spread a long
distance, so place the fixture 1 to 2 feet away from the object
that is to be lit. When lighting the front face of your house,
be sure to place the fixture behind the shrubs, so as not to
cast shadows on the house.
One disadvantage to wall washers is that they
tend to be large and difficult to conceal. A clay pot, small
shrub or any similar lawn decoration can sometimes work to hide
the most obvious ones.
Graze Lighting is striking a
narrow beam close to flat texture object either vertically or
horizontally. This can be a good alternative to wall washing
(if the glare point can be concealed.) This requires less
fixtures and lights the object from the side rather than the
front. Be sure to soften the surrounding areas with level I or
level II lighting, because a narrow spot tends to be bright.
Adjust the light to reduce "hot spots."
Moonlighting is simply filtering a
downward directed floodlight through branches. The effect, if
done right, is a spattering of light and shadow on walking
surfaces or gathering areas. The tree may need to be
professionally pruned to accomplish the desired effect.
Consider the type of tree- if it is a deciduous tree and sheds
its leaves, the fixture should be placed where it is not
glaring during the dormant season.
Path lighting is probably the most
popular and over used of all lighting techniques. Too much Path
lighting creates a runway effect, a connect-the-dots game of
lighting pathway areas. My personal preference in Path lighting
is to spread the light onto the ground and place fixtures
randomly at key safety points in the pathway. The fixtures that
are mushroom shaped work best as a directional ground
Spillover light from other light sources can satisfy the
safety issue. Remember that glare dilates the eye. It's easy to
see a path lit by moonlight because the eye is adjusted to a
constant level of low light. Path lights are sometimes
ornamental in value, so the selection of them is subject to
personal taste. Just try to balance it with the lighting
portrait as a whole.
lighting services available in
Derry, Windham, Londonderry, Manchester, Bedford, Hudson,
Hollis and Nashua, New Hampshire.