Archive for the ‘Lighting’ category

Light And Water – A Marriage Made In Heaven

October 23rd, 2013

We’ll begin with a premise that is entirely scientific and wonderful. Lights can do marvelous dances in  water. Mixing the periodicity of pulsations with a happy medium like water produces strange and wonderful effects. Filters of color can be produced from the bulbs themselves or from exotic laser sources and become literally other-worldly, marveled over more for the physical beauty of form of the water itself than its color.

Water seems to conduct light along its trajectories when, in fact, it is a function of refraction which moves it along and highlights the light “inside” the water. It is a thrilling illusion. What can be done when the imagination is let loose is one of the more interesting uses of our human brains. And it can be done small – say, sitting gently in a small pond beside a front door entry:

Conversely, lighting water up can get just a tad larger and certainly no less effective or imaginative in cases of ponds or nearby lakes. In this case, the simplicity is a huge plus:

Easily the most spectacular of all water and light blends revolve around the major efforts of light show producers, a virtual field now complete with LED Lights, Lasers, fog-making machines and the good old fashioned colored gels which are so brilliantly features in the Magic Fountain of Barcelona:

 

This is a long-running, thrilling eye-pleasing feast of light, water and gorgeous compilations of colors:

 

 

But the new winner in the most spectacular sweepstakes may well reside in Singapore.

 

Meanwhile, each evening Singapore welcomes its newer designation as an architectural marvel by hosting what has to be at least the most Unique Light Show In The World.

Here it is.

 

Aspects Of Outdoor Lighting Design – Uplighting

October 21st, 2013

“Uplighting” is a unique lighting technique made most effective on smaller scales by completely hiding the source of light itself and aiming a wide arc of intended brightness upwards. Most typically and most effectively, the fixture itself is buried and unidentifiable by any measure other than when the light is actively engaged. Of the simplest yet most effective techniques, the implicit beauty of lighting in all cases becomes genius in the slight tweaking of fixtures and their placement.

Uplighting features a fascinatingly multiple array of  design themes. In typical modern low-voltage lighting architecture, uplights such as this very typical “can”  below, expose the physical features of any illuminated object.

The additional merits of  producing an ample source of “ambient lighting” from the lighting refraction means the reflected light from the items illuminated also provide a spillover of light which provides additional security almost incidentally and produces warmer, more subtle safety effects without glare.

As always, on the strictly aesthetic level, lighting is used to feature aspects of the outdoor appearance of a property. The example above, for example, features the color and form of this residence – the building itself. Other uplighting effects can be seen featuring seasonal attributes with a breath-taking beauty of form and lushness.

Obviously the above picture illustrates the possibilities in using color filters, much the same as theater lighting can set moods and fantastical elements for the their dramatic productions. Typically, in most cases, simple uplighting techniques are far and away sufficient for featuring those elements which can make our homes amazingly more appealing from the street as well as for our own enjoyment.

Uplighting is simply the most common and actually least challenging method of enhancing our properties. It simply “works”. It proves that nearly any effort at lighting – or nightscaping – our homes and businesses is an extremely effective method of beautifying our lives.

 

Landscape Lighting – General Principles

October 10th, 2013

We often answer questions about Landscape Lighting which refer us back to a very basic “Why?” The answers to that are pretty straightforward – so much so, in fact, that we so often see dark neighborhoods and it makes us wonder why some cities seem to have not yet discovered the overall merits of lighting. And, yes, this is also to say that some regions have indeed discovered this.

Only part of the answer to “Why Lighting?” refers to enhancing a lovely appearance. Other factors such as Home Security, Curb Appeal and general comfort weigh in just as heavily as those involving beauty.

Few of us can imagine a front porch not lit up to welcome visitors. Imagine how dour Halloween would be without porch lamps advertising treats. We can also fail to experience what our visitors find when they approach our homes unless it is dreadful enough for our frank and loving friends to remind us that negotiating our sidewalks is a challenge – or has “issues”. Indeed, one of the single-most hazardous aspects of the night can be the glaring distraction of poorly-placed lights. It becomes even more common where we deal with Security over comfort, providing glaring or far too-bright mechanisms which can blind a person on their approach.

Here, for example, is a perfect example of an inadvertently hostile welcome:

While brimming with an awesome protective sense of security for the dwellers indoors, this is an incredibly difficult passage for anyone honestly approaching a dwelling. It is blinding and therefore dangerous – as much so as its pitch-black alternative.

A well-lit front yard invites passage and provides the same security, but with the “mission” spread out enough that it can feature the elements of surprising beauty and form hidden in the potential elements of almost any landscape. In this instance below, that beauty is of the home itself.

In other cases, one can mute the light a bit and still provide ample security yet tastefully express a warm welcome. This one features the beauty one would want to present as the best imaginable face of welcome and an inclusive inspiration:

As can readily be seen in the photograph above, the placement and design of lighting can be a varied but arresting arrangement which can amplify an already-gorgeous atmosphere. The fact is that Night can provide a stunning opportunity to not just feature interesting form and color but which can also virtually extend a living area into the outdoors, simply by an well-conceived and well-lit lighting design.

These lights compose a near virtual “wall”, enclosing the area in warmth and bordering light. Other lighting possibilities are legion, from “hot” lights featuring works of art or interesting horticultural features made even more satisfying by lighting:

Waterfalls – and water in general – can make stunning features when lit up appropriately:

Author!!!  Author!!!

Lighting up our landscapes, in conclusion, can be an entirely pleasant option, extending our pleasure for yet more hours and in yet more ways, in more places, for more people. We can improve our own lives as well as those of our neighbors by illustrating our personal care for our evening appearance and welcoming natures.

To come, we will investigate yet more facets of outdoor lighting and get down and dirty with installation issues and the various products available in this emerging market.

Landscape Lighting Do’s and Dont’s

June 1st, 2012

 

Fantastic Landscape Lighting

Lighting your outdoor space can seem like a daunting task at first but if done right it can be one of the most enjoyable and painless additions you’ll make.  With the right planning and attention to a few do’s and dont’s it shouldn’t take more than an afternoon to install a few low voltage landscape lights that will last for years to come.

Cast Brass Spotlight

 

1. DO use brass fixtures.  Most landscape lighting fixtures on the market, especially those in the big box stores are made out of aluminum.  Aluminum landscape lights will corrode overtime as they are exposed to rain and groundwater.  While they may be relatively inexpensive they ultimately fail to please.  Don’t skimp on the materials in your landscape lights and you’ll be halfway there from the start.

 

2. DO add up the total voltage of all the lights you are going to use FIRST. You need to know this number so that you can get an adequate transformer.  Eventhough these landscape lights are low voltage (usually around 20 volts), inadequate power supplies can lead to uneven landscape lighting and can even damage the lights over time.  This is an important step that shouldn’t be ignored as it will allow you to head off the common problem of voltage drop in these sorts of systems.  This step will also be important in determining the size and length of the underground cord you’ll be using for the same reason.

Infiniti 20 LED Spotlight

3. DON’T overload your power runs. For big landscape lighting layouts plan in advance and build your setup from a central hub or junction box.  Make sure you have enough power run to the junction and that each line branching off of it doesn’t bare more than 110-120watts.  The amount of voltage used by the landscape lights you choose will determine how many branches you’ll need to run from the hub.  If you’re really worried about voltage drop then go ahead and lower the max watts per line to 75watts or so.  If your junction carries sufficient power you should be able to stagger your landscape lights on their individual lines to get a contiguous effect without sacrificing voltage and/or landscape light intensity.

4. DON’T use cheap connectors! Remember, the wires and connectors for landscape lights are underground, which means they will be exposed to groundwater most of the time.  To reduce the chance of future headaches you want to make sure this very important part of the system is as waterproof as it can be. Wire nuts and electrical tape will not cut it here!  Save yourself a lot of time and energy and make sure the connectors on your landscape lights are high quality.  Look for connectors with some sort of grease sealant in the specs.  This is a good sign that longevity was a factor in the manufacture of the landscape light.

Tank Spotlight

5. DO make your outdoor space look awesome. Sure, this one goes without saying but there are a few things to consider if you really want to achieve in this regard.  First, avoid splitting up the space you want to light.  Put roughly, this means either choose to light a bunch of space or just a little.  If you can’t afford enough landscape lights to accent everything  don’t try to compensate by spreading the landscape lights thin.  You’ll end up disappointed with the results.  It’s better to focus on one or two spots that you really want to show off rather than end up with a bunch of forbidding shadows and empty spots all around.

 

In the end, good landscape lighting, comes down to just a little bit of planning and the right materials.  Done carefully setting up landscape lighting ought to be a fun, enjoyable project that will add a huge spark to your outdoor space.  Landscape lighting done well is a thing to marvel at and knowing you did it yourself will make it all the more wonderful.

Back To The World

July 8th, 2011

Traipsing through pictures of the fountains of the world is one of the pure joys of doing this blog. I feel fortunate that I can do this in a serious manner – ha ha – and get all this fun at the same time. I have literally laughed out loud at some of these anarchistic and plain hilarious efforts, all deviously designed and enacted by some extremely admirable people.

The Stravinsky Fountain at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, is a splendid example of this zany serendipity and pleasurable art work, stationed as it is outside a Music Centre.

(left click any image to enlarge)

The fun  doesn’t stop as this fountain continues to draw smiling visitors, freshly awed by the audacity of creativity. The metal kinetic sculptures are by Jean Tinguley. The big colorfull resin sculptures were by his wife – Niki De Saint Phalle. As a civic collecting place, many vendors and small portable shoppes parade by daily, servicing the many curious tourists and locals alike. It has become, in short, something more than was even intended.

The funny figures depicted at the Stravinsky Fountain are all taken from his Music.

Moving along, it has been sobering to realize how intensely involved so many municipalities are in providing such wonders for its citizens and visitors. Lima, Peru has outdone themselves, for example, with a complete Water Park consisting of 12 different fountains, all lit up magnificently at night and gloriously wet during the day to the thrill of children. Check out the night time, versus daytime look of this edifice:

Evenings:

They extend the wonders of light behavior and the water which catches it in wonderfully large and modern works as well:

Stunning stuff -

Like a palette for a painter, lighting adds a dimension which nothing on Earth can replicate, as the water catches and carries the rays of refracted light like a busy and industrious Aquarius.

There are lessons here as well for all of us average homeowners. What a tiny bit of lighting can do for a small fountain or water feature can be off the charts beneficial. Such lighting can determine the parameters of an outdoor room with the simple usage of up lighting the periphery, then using “hotter” lighting elements around features we wish to expose more.

With an appreciative “nod of the head” to Bodew.com – a wonderful blog dealing with landscape design, I present a picture from their fabulously interesting website as an example of the purest Potential of landscape lighting:

 

This is truly ‘releasing a potential’ in a grove of giant Bamboo.

But one more final look at some hilarity:

Want a little spritz?

Lighting Water Features

April 11th, 2011

A guest blog today, from this Steve Snedeker Page:

We might want our fountain or water feature unobtrusive and suggestive, as in the case of a cute small gurgling brook or bubble rock by the front entrance. Lighting a water feature brings a totally noteworthy purchase to the visual senses. Perhaps a wall-mounted fountain which calms the nerves as visitors approach our door in a sing-song small splash at their feet. Or perhaps, like below, a small spritzer with its own cute little lamp, illuminating our path with ambient lighting and making a little show of its own.

Newer technologies have made what was once rare and slightly impossible more attainable every day. These days, underwater lights are cheap and safe as they can be. It has opened up an entire galaxy of possibilities for the homeowner and the landscaping designer. Easy to install and durable as they can be, these tough little submersible lights throw an entirely new dimension into the life of water itself.

Perhaps something extravagant, lighting a wider area and illustrating the maximum potential of just how gorgeous a fountain, properly-lit, can be would be in order?

(left click to enlarge)

Shimmering here in a crystal-like other wordliness, our breath gets momentarily suspended as we see just how utterly spectacular underwater fountain lighting can be.

Interestingly, we can also visit the Lunatic Fringe and learn much – this award-winning pool comes from these guys – “Cipriano Landscape Design” - based in New Jersey, of all places. Their amazing productions are on a world class scale, typically involving the very purest Eye Candy. I love their work with Fiber Optics, a newly-found range of lighting that has an enormous creative upside.

This shot makes a wonderful example of the mentioned Fiber Optics but it also reveals the more standard “up-lighting” which is assuming widespread use for lighting plants, trees structures and everything else in landscapes.

Colors or not, some stuff is too pretty for words.

You can’t buy some, either! (enlarge this one below – it’s real!)

Pond and Fountain World – a local Louisville Business – has an enormous range, not only of these examples of gorgeous lights, but of pumps and the actual fountains themselves which comprise these pages. Please do me a favor – visit by clicking this link and look around.