A couple of weeks ago, I was at a presentation on landscape lighting for a group of landscape architects in Connecticut. It was a good presentation on outdoor living spaces that lasted all day. When darkness finally rolled around, we were able to take them on a walkthrough of a lighting demonstration. The demonstration showed a Shagbark Hickory tree lit three different ways.
First, was how you might expect to see lighting done by a regular electrician or landscaper with just a few lights and basically putting light on a tree. The effect was dramatic. One minute the tree wasn’t there and then it was.
Second, we showed what a few more lights spaced evenly around the tree could do. It gave the tree dimension and depth and it was instantly understood that better lighting makes a difference. The effect on the group was instantly noticed. The tree took shape and wasn’t just a blob of foliage in the night sky.
Lastly, the third scenario tied it all in. Light went up along the trunk of the tree and downlighting from the tree tied the tree back to the ground plane. The downlighting made it “feel” more natural. The warmth of the bark on the trunk combined with the coolness of the foliage tied everything together.
The demonstration made sense to all of those in attendance. Was it for everyone? No, in fact one of the architects said, “that is too many lights, who will ever pay for that?” The response from another person in attendance was perfect. “This is not for everyone.”
Landscape lighting indeed is not for everyone. There are many things that can turn someone off to it such as budget, or they don’t have a good enough composition to effectively light or they just are not passionate enough about their property to do it. As landscape lighting designers, we plan our lighting according to what is around us and how the area is going to be used or viewed. Our goal is simple, we make everyone else’s work look great…at night.