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How to: light landscapes

July 2017

Light plays a key role in how people use a space, and how long they stay!

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The key to successful landscape lighting is subtlety and selectivity. In most cases there will be little competing light, so fairly low light levels will have considerable visual impact.

  • Avoid trying to light landscapes in an all-over, uniform manner. Best results are often achieved by the selective highlighting of key objects within areas of darkness.
  • Always consider the main pedestrian routes or viewing positions – light to enhance those views.
  • For landscapes with a major viewing position, try to illuminate a prominent or distant object – a fountain, sculpture or tree – to create a central lit focus to the scene.
  • With smaller landscaped spaces, gentle lighting of visible boundaries, such as fences, can help create a greater sense of intimacy and comfort.
  • Mounting luminaires in close offset positions with the light grazing the surface will help to bring out the interesting textures of natural surfaces, such as tree-trunks and stone walls.
  • The surfaces of ponds or lakes make excellent mirrors – try to exploit their reflective potential by lighting objects along their edge, giving you ‘double’ the lighting effect.
  • The lighting of pathways needs careful consideration. Lower level lighting such as bollards or marker lights may be less intrusive aesthetically than column-mounted luminaires.
  • Always ensure that lighting equipment is concealed as much as possible.
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Consider light pollution and unnecessary energy usage. Can elements of the lighting scheme be switched off at certain times of night or year? For example, deciduous trees may not benefit from up-lighting in the winter