Outdoor lighting design is an art. A truly skilled outdoor lighting designer needs to understand the clients style and taste and bring that affect to their home. They need to have a strong understanding of electrical, possess artistic vision, and understand plants and trees. Believe it or not, basic geometry and spacial recognition is a big part of it. A designer needs to be able to see how the property will look illuminated before the lights are even turned on. Although the installation process can be quite laborous, the art is in the design. One needs to understand what wattage bulbs to use, the degree the light will spread from the bulb, where to place the fixtures and my favorite, lenses!
My favorite thing about being a designer is no job is identical. In Northern Virginia, each region can be drastically different. Fairfax has a wide variety of lot sizes and some houses have beautiful trees surrounding a large lot, others can be intimate small lots with pools in the back. Leesburg has the surrounding mountains, Lansdowne and River Creek have some water views worth capturing. As you get into Alexandria, Old Town and Mount Vernon things change dramatically. The trees are more mature are houses are generally older. Every clients style is different and so is their property. The best way to make the customer happy is to provide them with the right information and also photos. Below I am going to discuss the different lighting styles and techniques:
Spot lighting is when you point the lighting fixture directly at the object in which you intend to illuminate. Spot lighting is a beginning technique in lighting which unfortunately is overused in Virginia and the jobs end up looking overdone.
Shadowing can be a lot of fun but not to be overused. Think of when you were a child and you would make this giant shadow on a way, you basically would stand between the light and a wall. The further away from the wall, the bigger you would seem. Well, this can be quite dramatic with trees, my favorite is to do this with trees that have great texture.
Silhouetting is the opposite of shadowing, instead of the light being in front of the object, you place the light fixture behind what you would like to highlight. The affect is awesome, especially in the backyard living areas. I use this technique all the time in Virginia with illuminating backyard pool areas.
Grazing is used when you want to capture the texture of a surface, especially masonry. This is often used for uplighting houses, you install the light fixture at the base of the masonry structure and poing up. In Virginia, we have a lot of beautiful stucco, brick and stone homes.
Down lighting/Moon Lighting
Down-lighting became very popular in the 80's when lighting companies would climb super high up into trees and shine lights down through the tree branches to replicate the moonlight. Today it is not as popular since the technology has come so far along with low voltage lighting. Uplighting a deep forest can be even more eye catching and you don't have to deal with the glare from the lights or the issue of replacing the bulbs as they burn out over time. But, moonlighting still has it's place for the right applications (driveways, waterfalls, lush plant beds below large trees, etc).
Nothing beats a massive oak getting uplight by a couple light fixtures, we have beautiful Oaks in Virginia and it can be quite majestic! Or illuminating a lush canopy overhanging an entertaining space. Or using a spread lens on a crape and myrtle as the autumn leaves begin to change. I could go on and on, trees add dimension to your property's lighting project.
Don't worry, the old days of installing path lights on the left and right of your walkway are gone. No more landing strips in front of houses. Path lighting adds safety for you and your visitors. It also does a great job highlighting beautiful stone walkways such as pavers and flagstones. Lastly, path lighting does a great job providing diffused lighting for streams, plants beds, statues, etc.
Low level evenly dispersed illumination for flowers, shrubs, and other types of ground cover. It can also be used underwater to enhance ornamental ponds.