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View Full Version : down-lighting, finer points.


Mike M
04-20-2008, 07:29 AM
I just finished aiming some down-lights last night, and was wondering what people with more experience than me have to say about down-lighting effects and materials.

I see what James means by separating yourself from common up-lights everywhere.

Billy gave me some good tips on height and filters. I was able to achieve a connected path along a driveway using wide spreads and various filters. I think it's very professional that Unique provides the filters with each fixture.

But a key element I struggled with, was shielding. This job had 3 Unique tree lights (can never remember name) and 4 of the Cast. The problem was a curving drive with multiple view points. The Cast fixture has an awesome shield, until the view point breaks, then it becomes a huge glowing reflector.

Unique's louvers are nice and deep.

On garden features (iron gate, bench) I used 12 and 24 degrees and it was awesome.

The only real difficulty was the pitch/tilt of the fixtures on the drive. Any tips??? Unfortunately I think this may have to do with confidence on the ladder. I don't want to post a thread called "ooops Mike was on a 40' ladder today."

TPnTX
04-20-2008, 09:38 AM
I just did my 1st downlight. I used a 20w mr16 with a 60d spread and blue filter.

I don't have a picture showing where/what I'm down lighting but looking at this pic you can see the patio. Behind the camera the patio continues at 90degress as does the side of the house.

This is a corner lot home very small backyard and tight beds.

I positioned the down light in the big tree to the left at least 20 feet and I point it at the patio just beyond that last path light spread.(or what ever you call where the light shines). The tree light hit this decrotive concrete patio and part of the house.

This is all good because it joins the two ends of the 90degree lansdscape. Meaning this area was a dark area.(I just made all that up)

Now heres the deal. I like all that it looks good. However I don't like the fact that there is a big-ole light stuck up in the tree. It way too obvivous. If your wearing a cap you may not notice it until you look up in the tree. I say that because as funny as it sounds, I took my cap off then it struck me how noticable the light was. So I provided complentary Penny Landscape caps.

I ordered a louver lense. I want to see how well it does in helping to conceal the light a little more.

Sorry not trying to hijack here. I've been meaning to post about downlighting. I was anxious to do one and in the end disappointed at it.

TPnTX
04-20-2008, 09:45 AM
oh wait here is a another angle. I'm down lighting just to the right of the pots.

By the way in case you are wondering, I did this landcape last year. They only had a few bushes. (yes yes thank you, its gorgeous I know) I also built the steel fence with the baskets. They have a slideing gate and that is to help keep people/kids off the track. I tried to sell them hanging basket fixtures but the budget said no.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
04-20-2008, 10:42 AM
Billy gave me some good tips on height and filters. I was able to achieve a connected path along a driveway using wide spreads and various filters. I think it's very professional that Unique provides the filters with each fixture. Mike: when you say a connected path do you mean that you had the moonlighting effects 'connecting' in that there was consistant light along the length of the path? I always space my fixtures so that there is are undulating light levels along the paths etc. This adds a lot of depth and drama to the view and draws people along the path at night to the destination. It is a much softer approach.

But a key element I struggled with, was shielding. This job had 3 Unique tree lights (can never remember name) and 4 of the Cast. The problem was a curving drive with multiple view points. The Cast fixture has an awesome shield, until the view point breaks, then it becomes a huge glowing reflector.
What angles away from vertical were you aiming the fixtures? I would recommend nothing more then 30Degrees off the vertical plane.
Unique's louvers are nice and deep. Honeycomb glare louvers can help, but mostly for fixtures mounted relatively low with higher aiming angles. Once you get way up a tree, the ability of the glare louvers decreases. Its all about geometry.

On garden features (iron gate, bench) I used 12 and 24 degrees and it was awesome. Watch out for hotspots when using such lamps... Try to keep the overal moonlighting effect in around 1 FC across the scene. Use highlighting and grazing techniques from the ground to capture those features.... The moonlighting should look just like that... moonlighting.

The only real difficulty was the pitch/tilt of the fixtures on the drive. Any tips??? Unfortunately I think this may have to do with confidence on the ladder. I don't want to post a thread called "ooops Mike was on a 40' ladder today."
If you have to aim your fixtures above 30degrees from vertical I would recommend finding a different mounting point. Either out on a limb or a different tree. Don't be afraid to mix and match aiming directions... (one light on the right side of the path, the next on the left side, etc etc) This adds a lot of drama and depth.

My number one rule for tree mounting downlights is: "The higher the light the closer to God." You really have to get up high off of the ground and mount the fixture out of sight. I try for 30'+ where ever possible.

NightScenes
04-20-2008, 11:15 AM
I've always thought, the higher the better but don't go too high for maintenance. I REALLY stress to the guys that someone (us) has to service the system. We have one guy who used to work for a tree trimming service and is a real tree monkey. I have to keep an eye out because he will put the lights in places that only he can get to. I guess he wants job security.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
04-20-2008, 11:28 AM
So true Paul. I have some lights that I installed a few years ago, during my eager and death defying stage, that I have no desire to service now! As I age and after a couple of nasty falls, I find myself passing by the "perfect downlighting position" if I cannot see someone else getting to the fixture in the future.

Ahhh to finally get that Teupen Spider Lift... :)

The Lighting Geek
04-20-2008, 12:15 PM
Good points James. I would only add that downlighting looks best, to me, when it is in balance with other methods of lighting, ie: up lighting, etc. Any method alone doesn't look balanced (most of the time). I have found about 25' is good height, and it works well with our ladder height as well. like James, I like using spaced out fixtures when I am lighting planted areas or driveways for the dramatic effect but I find myself using a more connected light on entry pathways. I almost always us 20w BAB and a frosted lens to make it more moonlight-ish. Fortunately, I have not had any tree monkeys work for me yet, but I feel your pain, Paul. LOL

Pro-Scapes
04-20-2008, 05:11 PM
Mike... one thing you may be missing is using the tree itself to reduce glare. Often times you can hide the fixture on the side of the trunk.

James is right on the angles but this is not a rule. More down than horizontal is very important when concealing glare. I love it when I have branches hanging over the areas we want to light. This is the ultimate scenario for us.

However. 2 weeks ago we sucessfully mounted a uique lunar with 35w 24 degree lamp at right about 45 degees to light an area a bit further away than we would of liked. We decided not to hang it in the closest tree and chose a tree even further out so we could conceal the source and the limb we were able to hang it on became the glare gaurd itself. I will have to take a pic but imagine a large oak limb with a fixture mounted on the backside of it completly hidden. All we used was a blue lens. No spread or louver.

Mike M
04-20-2008, 08:36 PM
Well, I have to get a little higher, plus I will start paying more attention to limb opportunity.

James, I'm not sure I want to be to close to God just yet!! At least not inside the Pearly Gates.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
04-20-2008, 09:36 PM
I did say closer, not close!

When it comes to tree work, unfortunately one can get too close to God and if (S)He doesn't like it then the bottom of you ladder can miraculously tip and dump you too the ground!

Amazing how long it seems to take when you are free falling 24' through Hemlock branches to the forest floor below!

Pro-Scapes
04-20-2008, 10:54 PM
Gravity will win everytime. I bought my gey a saftey harness. I agree tho keep maint and lamp changes in mind when mounting your lights. I have never had a prob with proper location when I am at about 25-30 ft.

Sometimes you do need to go a bit higher I think. I like to stand in the area to be lit then look around for the most concealed location I can hit that area from that is easy to get to. I saw thoes pics of Jr playing monkey man Paul. Thats not us thats for sure!

Chris J
04-20-2008, 11:14 PM
So true Paul. I have some lights that I installed a few years ago, during my eager and death defying stage, that I have no desire to service now! As I age and after a couple of nasty falls, I find myself passing by the "perfect downlighting position" if I cannot see someone else getting to the fixture in the future.

Ahhh to finally get that Teupen Spider Lift... :)

A fall from the ladder at 30' will hurt just as much as the fall from 40'
Just my opinion, but my opinion is always better than ramble.

Mike M
04-20-2008, 11:36 PM
Amazing how long it seems to take when you are free falling 24' through Hemlock branches to the forest floor below!

LOL. Did you forget you were on the ladder?? That is my fear, I get too comfy and focussed.

Pro-Scapes
04-21-2008, 12:29 AM
LOL. Did you forget you were on the ladder?? That is my fear, I get too comfy and focussed.

Do you not wear a harness mike ? I got one made for tree stands for hunting. We also sometimes use a climbing stand for tree lights.

Lite4
04-21-2008, 01:39 AM
It's not the falling through the branches I mind so much. It is the falling through the branches, waiting for the inevitable "THUMP" at the bottom that really sucks. Kind of like skydiving with a failed chute. 60 seconds of thinking, Dirt dart.

Chris J
04-21-2008, 01:46 AM
Like they have always said: It's not the fall that kills you, it's the sudden stop.

Mike M
04-21-2008, 07:31 PM
You guys are cracking me up.

Billy, I thought about a harness and climbing gear like the ones the arbor guys use. No need for a ladder.

INTEGRA Bespoke Lighting
04-22-2008, 12:17 AM
You guys are cracking me up.

Billy, I thought about a harness and climbing gear like the ones the arbor guys use. No need for a ladder.

Get trained on that gear before you use it Mike!

Also, you will be blown away at how LONG it takes to properly rig up and get the static line properly positioned and tied off to allow you to climb. Ladders do have their efficiencies... and when you have 30, 40 and up to 100 lights in trees on a job, well, time is money!

Also.... think about how you will aim the fixtures after dark! This is the one main reason I still use a lot of ladders and not the climbing rig. Getting the rig back in place and you to the exact location in that tree after dark is going to be mucho challenge my friend.

Be prepared to practise with the throwing bag and line for a LONG time to perfect it. Those arborists blow my mind with their distance and accuracy throwing that thing! It is a real art.

Mike M
04-22-2008, 07:37 AM
Maybe I'll feel safer and climb higher on the ladder if I combine the two; use the climbing gear to go up the ladder.

:D