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View Full Version : Is less often more?


mikecox1
04-20-2009, 11:17 AM
Let me preface this post with saying thank you to all the wonderful people on this board who helped me with this project. If it weren't for you guys I would have had one home run that would have daisey chained to 16 lights over a 90foot span and carried a 314 watt load. That would have been a disaster. With your help I was able to get wattage readings from 11.1 to 11.4 on every single fixture (all hail the multi-tap transformer and the hub method). I will also go on to say that doing an install the right way is a hell of a lot more involved than the non-educated public would ever know. You guys earn your money.

OK, now to my post.

At the inception of this project I thought that more light would have a bolder impact than less. Well, I finished imy install and I was amazed that I ended up liking lower wattage bulbs better than the higher wattage ones (except for the lights shining up on the walls of the house where more was better to me). The brighter ones seemed to wash out my landscape while the lower wattage ones showed more texture and depth. I can see that learning the landscape design part of your profession could take years to master. How often do you guys decrease the wattage of your fixtures after completing the install?

NightLightingFX
04-20-2009, 11:34 AM
Without getting into too much detail. I always try to think about using different levels of light. Nate Mullin's book "The Landscape Lighting Resource Manual" goes into alot of detail about this topic. Simply put, for a focal point use brighter light for supporting features, and secondary features, along with transitions use less light. Different levels of light can help create contrast and depth. I am sure some of the other guys can add to or correct what I said.
~Ned

David Gretzmier
04-20-2009, 02:53 PM
I tend to make sure the house looks great, washing the home with light by using different spreads and wattages, depending on the height of the house. more than once I thought it looked perfect, only to have the client want a bit less, and end up bumping down from 35's to 20 watt 60's, even on 2 and 3 story homes, leaving the soffit dark. some clients also prefer the yellower and dimmer light of 10 to 10.5 volts rather than the whiter light of 10.8-11.8.

steveparrott
04-21-2009, 05:57 PM
I've often heard the concept that focal points should appear brighter than background elements and that you need to vary brightness from foreground to background to create depth. I find this to sometimes be misleading and just not true in many instances.

I always start with an approach to provide an optimal illumination of every illuminated area and to reduce differences in apparent brightness to a fairly narrow range. Human vision doesn't judge depth by differences in brightness; it judges depth by two types of perception, binocular and monocular.

Binocular perception of depth refers to our use of two eyes that register images from different angles - if the images shifts perceptably from one side to the other, we know it's close. The two eyes also need to adjust to converge their images to focus on an object. A close object requires greater adjustment (cross-eyed).

Monocular perception of depth refers to clues such as relative size, presence of objects that interfere with vision of the faraway object, or the convergence of visual lines such as driveways or pathways. It can also include the distortion of the object and it's perceived color and color saturation because of fog.

Except in the case of fog, images that are far away don't appear less bright than images close. An apple lit with 5 footcandles 15 feet away will appear as bright as the same apple 50 feet away. (Although apparent brightness will be affected by the region surrounding the apple - dark surroundings will increase the perceived brightness while light surrounds will diminish the apparent brightness.)

This is why I believe it is misleading to think that a faraway object with a lower level of illumination will trick the viewer into perceiving greater depth. Depth is best achieved by illuminating objects near and far to a level of illumination that reveals the desired level of detail and color saturation. Depth is also revealed by illuminating any converging lines in the landscape that provide visual cues that one object is at a greater distance. Depth is also revealed by lighting objects that are behind other objects.

As to whether or not to provide greater illumination on focal points. I agree that this can often be good since human vision tends to intially be drawn to objects that are brighter or that present greater contrast (in brightness) to their surroundings. Still, care should be taken to keep the apparent brightness relatively close to the brightness of other illuminated areas. You don't want the pupils to adapt to a very bright object, only to be followed by gazing to a much darker area - this would require the eyes time to adapt to the different light level.

steveparrott
04-22-2009, 10:34 AM
Another note about the lighting of focal points in the landscape. Keep in mind that a well designed landscape uses landscape or architectural features as visual focal points. These could be specimen trees, garden beds, statuary or even the main structure. During the daytime, even when everything is illuminated, the eyes will travel to the focal points because of what they are and how they are situated in the overall design.

When it gets dark, the same landscape exists, and the lighting designer has two main choices - 1. To illuminate the landscape in such a way that the important elements are revealed and the visual perception of the design is similar to daylight perception; or, 2. To create a new visual design by selectively illuminating only parts of the landscape, possibly altering the visual experience.

If choice no. 1 is followed then there is no need to artificially increase brightness of the focal point since these items will assume the same role in the design as during the daylight. As long as all important areas are illuminated sufficiently and in the proper balance then the visual flow will be preserved.

If choice no. 2 is followed, then the lighting designer may choose to influence the visual flow by increasing brightness of focal points, although in most cases it's probably not necessary.

mikecox1
04-22-2009, 10:39 AM
Good info. I will have to look at my yard with this information in mind and see if it changes how I want it to be lit.

steveparrott
04-22-2009, 11:02 AM
Another note on brightness differences.

Landscape lighting treads a fine line between creating a lighting design that mimics moonlight and creating a lighting design that injects artificial lighting effects to evoke an emotional response.

Moonlight evenly illuminates everything except shadowed areas. Under moonlight there are essentially two levels of brightness - moonlit (about 0.01 fc) and shadows (unknown fc). To accurately recreate moonlight, we would position fixtures in trees throughout the property and make sure they were all the same low level of luminance. Of course, this would fail to satisfy many of the other goals of our lighting, especially safety and security.

Instead, we engage in a creative application of light throughout the landscape and structures selecting variuos levels of illumination to evoke drama, mystery, etc. In this regard, however, we need to tread lightly lest we call attention to the lighting itself and exagerate emphasis imposing an obvious artificiality. The solution is a compromise and a guiding principle should be to minimize brightness as much as possible, especially differences in brightness throughout the design.

Dreams To Designs
04-23-2009, 10:32 AM
Steve, sounds quite theatrical to me. That's the way I like it.

Definitely the way good lighting designs should be based. Draw attention only to those things that truly deserve it after following the functions of safety and security.

Now if someone would step up and carry a variety of 10 watt MR16's and frosted lens MR16's that would make design more fun. These lamps are out there, but not easy to get.

Kirk

JoeyD
04-23-2009, 10:45 AM
10w MR16's are easy to get but have crappy lamp life.

Dreams To Designs
04-23-2009, 10:54 AM
Joey, who's stocking other than 36 degree? Any reason for the short lamp life. I haven't encountered that in short time I've been using them.

Kirk

JoeyD
04-23-2009, 10:58 AM
Well I should say thatthey are easy to order! LOL I dont think most stock them due to their reduced lamp life and their low demand....Not sure on the lamp life issue. I know someone from Ushio had explained to me the reason but now I cant remember.

Tomwilllight
04-23-2009, 11:38 AM
...we engage in a creative application of light throughout the landscape and structures selecting variuos levels of illumination to evoke drama, mystery, etc. In this regard, however, we need to tread lightly lest we call attention to the lighting itself and exagerate emphasis imposing an obvious artificiality. The solution is a compromise and a guiding principle should be to minimize brightness as much as possible, especially differences in brightness throughout the design.

Steve,

Excellent posts! Less is usually more... often much more.

Tom

NightLightingFX
04-23-2009, 12:07 PM
Now if someone would step up and carry a variety of 10 watt MR16's and frosted lens MR16's that would make design more fun. These lamps are out there, but not easy to get.

Kirk

If you experiment enough with 10W lamps you will soon find out why professionals don't use them - They don't last. They will always be the lamps burned out in your system.

Tomwilllight
04-23-2009, 12:51 PM
If a 20W MR16 throws too much light, cut screen wire, fold it a couple of times and install it in front of your lamp.

It's called mechanical dimming.

Tom

JoeyD
04-23-2009, 04:26 PM
or buy a Unique fixture and get a Hex louver, Frosted lens, Dimpled Spread, and linear spread in the box!!!!!

Tomwilllight
04-23-2009, 04:55 PM
or buy a Unique fixture and get a Hex louver, Frosted lens, Dimpled Spread, and linear spread in the box!!!!!

The screen can be used - if a fixture that has room for several accessories - in addition to any of the accessories Joey listed. Each accessory does a separate and distinct job. The only one that will allow you to dim mechanically is screen. Each layer of screen knocks the intensity down about 10%.

Screen is a wonderful tool for Lighting Designers of all types.

Tom

Pro-Scapes
04-24-2009, 07:31 AM
I been ok on my 10 w mr16's from ushio so long as I run them at low 11v... 10.8 to 11.2 Have several well over a year old still working. Sometimes especially on architecture I do not like to use a frosted lens to knock down output unless I will be using them across the entire home due to the color change.

Lite4
04-24-2009, 09:25 AM
I just installed a 10 watter in a stellar last week. 20 watts was too bright even with the frosted lense. It is coming directly out of a second floor line voltage recepticle with a mini inline trans, and the voltage is running a hot 11.9v. I don't imagine this lamp is going to last long.

Great tip on the screen Tom. I think I will throw the 20 back in and screen it.

Pro-Scapes
04-24-2009, 09:38 AM
I just installed a 10 watter in a stellar last week. 20 watts was too bright even with the frosted lense. It is coming directly out of a second floor line voltage recepticle with a mini inline trans, and the voltage is running a hot 11.9v. I don't imagine this lamp is going to last long.

Great tip on the screen Tom. I think I will throw the 20 back in and screen it.

TIm. I was reffering to the Mr16 10 w lamps. Personally I have had no issue with 10w bi pins like you would be using in the stellars.

How are you controlling that electronic trans ?

Lite4
04-24-2009, 09:49 AM
TIm. I was reffering to the Mr16 10 w lamps. Personally I have had no issue with 10w bi pins like you would be using in the stellars.

How are you controlling that electronic trans ?

No, I am using an MR16 in this one. I tried the 35 watt, t4 that Unique sent and I just wasn't happy with the color or light output. It didn't "feather" well into the the other light that was being cast up the walls. The BAB was just a little too bright, but the output was the right color and shape I needed, so I just backed it down to a 10, which was about right.

The electronic trans right now is being controlled on it's own photocell. We discussed going to a UPB system, but for one light they decided to just put it on the photo for now. There is probably about a five minute discrepencey between when it and the main comes on. I will get some pics and post for you. I am trying to talk them into doing some upgrades inside their home with some wonderful coves they have in many of their rooms as well as upgrading many of thier cans from the old par30s to some nice recessed MRs. If we do a lot of the interior for them they will definitely be moving to the UPB system for interior control functions as well.

Pro-Scapes
04-24-2009, 06:36 PM
Try the screen Tom mentioned next time you need to go change that 10w MR lamps and report on the findings. I am going on a UPB service call tonight (again) this one house seems to keep losing the program in the CS clock and yes... it has been updated to a new clock with new firmware.

Tomwilllight
04-26-2009, 03:49 PM
A quick comparison been using a frost lens vs using layers of screen to knock down luminous intensity follows:

Frost Lens - makes your lamp produce a "BLOB" of light. You have no control over the edges of the beam and you have increased the possibility of creating lens brightness into the landscape.

Screen - by mechanically dimming the lamp with a screen, you can control the luminous intensity you want to achieve and still retain the distribution of the lamp you have so very carefully selected. Because you still have control of the distribution, you can, with care, avoid lens brightness.

The frost lens has a single setting. Put it in front of your lamp and you get what you get, some less intensity.

With screen you can adjust the intensity in increments - one screen at a time - to the exact level you want.

Tom

Pro-Scapes
04-26-2009, 07:34 PM
Tom are you using a stainless screen or can you provide a more specific detail about the size and type of screen you are using ?

Tomwilllight
04-26-2009, 08:07 PM
Hi Billy,

I use standard household screen wire. Nothing fancy. I wouldn't suggest fiberglass screen. Is there screen made of stainless? I've been out of the South for some time and using Yankee screen.... I'm sure screen that can keep out Mississippi mosquitoes will do just fine.

Tom

Pro-Scapes
04-27-2009, 08:14 AM
Its gnats we are fighting right now. Terrbile! Ash and I spent a week in vegas. Not so much as a fly. Makes me want to move back.

I am heading to lowes today and will report back on my findings. I am going to cut some to fit and see what its all about. I have a project I would like to revisit and tone down alot more without sacrificing the pure color I have

Tomwilllight
04-27-2009, 10:27 AM
Billy,

I cut a strip 2"+ wide and as long as my roll of screen is wide. I put the end of the strip in front of the fixture. Next, I step back, look and think. Does the composition need less light? Yes. I fold the screen to width of my lens, stick it in the fixture and back up again and think some more.

Once I know how many screens I need, I cut off the unused screen, trim and insert the screen into the cap.

It's very helpful to use fixtures that accept NO LESS than 3 accessories. I find I will need a retaining ring to hold the screen in position for uplight. For me, a louver is a must have, a lens is a probably will have and I usually need room left for the screens.

Remember to protect your night vision as much as possible but this in ONLY a big issue when evaluating the overall lighting. While you are screening, you are only concerned with the relative brightness.

I recently had a problem with a glaring, custom designed, set of ground-mounted pathlights that lined the many driveways on the property. Each contained a screw-based CFL. Their glare was destroying my mock-up for the proposed redesign of the estate's landscape lighting. I instructed the grounds crew to cover each CFL with 3 layers of screen. The result was excellent! I won the trust of all including the client and heard a couple of days ago that my commission will be extended to a second property.

Tom

Pro-Scapes
04-27-2009, 12:47 PM
thanks Tom I was thinking about precutting them into round 1.6 inch shapes at home using a lens as a template then securing with a lens clip

Will try both ways and see how it works out.