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View Full Version : How did you get started with lighting?


indylights
03-27-2011, 09:31 PM
Given that there are some differing sides on the advantages or disadvantages of seminars, I was just curious how some of you, both for and against training, got your education or did your first lighting job. A few years into my landscaping business, I went to a seminar, then read and researched about product, methods, etc. on my own, worked on my own home and played around with that for a while. I then did my brother's house on my own, played with that for awhile, and then got my first paid install (6 lights) which I was nervous as hell about. I actually went back every night for a week just to make sure everything came on and looked how we thought it should, and also verified my readings probably three or four times. That was about nine years ago. From there it just kept getting a little bigger, a little better, and a little more often. I continue to research on my own, have a great relationship with my distributor who keeps me informed of any new product or technology updates, and still do attend the occassional seminar (for all trades I offer) just to refresh, see if there is anything new I should know and what trends may be. Just curious how others got their start.

Scott Maloney
Sunflower Landscapes

RLI Electric
03-27-2011, 10:14 PM
All kidding aside, I went for the 4 hour seminar for a free pizza:laugh: Seriously, I forgot my lunch and my supply house (electrical) had a seminar going on with a lunch. So I went. I didn't take it seriously but I was fed well. I then started doing a little when my customers would ask me to do it for them (stupid quick connect discs:rolleyes:) Anyways, I went back at night and thought, wow this looks pretty cool. Fast forward a couple of years and I was at a Lutron controls class in Florida and one of the other attendees told me about Jan Moyer. I thought maybe I would look into it and was hesitant. After all, I took a course that showed me how to do hubs (now I was light years above other electrical contractors) I thought what else is there really to learn? Needless to say, I went and when I came back my view was changed. The LLI and joining the AOLP and having the individuals in that organization as my teachers and friends has been a complete blessing. Being able to utilize left brain and right brain is completely inspiring (That's for you Phil, if youre there lurking). I heard John Pletcher say "Don't you just love what we do?" He is absolutely correct. I have been doing electrical work for 21 years and the last 3 have been the best ever. I am excited for this profession and art form like I would never imagine. I am learning plants. I am learning artistic perspective. I am learning photography. I am learning about pruning. I am learning about preventing light pollution. John was absolutely correct. Yes, I do love what I do.

David Gretzmier
03-28-2011, 11:52 PM
my first paying lighting job was my neighbors house when I was 13 back 28 years ago. I had done my parents Christmas lights and my neighbor paid me to do thiers. the neighbor down the street and a few of my lawn clients had me do it that year, and so on. The next year I had a couple of lawn customers who had high voltage pagoda lights that needed new sockets and bulbs, so I took them apart and bought new sockets at the hardware store and made them work. cleaned all the fixtures, painted the metal parts, straightened them out, and I remember mrs. parish mentioning they looked better than when they were new. replaced a few ground mounted spots that had HUGE shrouds and those really heavy glass spotlight bulbs. a few j-boxes here and there. she told a few friends and I fixed a few more over the years, and hired an electrician or two to replace lines.

all my early "landscape lighting" on the job training was highly illegal by the way, no electrician me. :nono:

1st low voltage lighting was around 1987, mostly Nightscaping repairs for a few years, and my 1st full LV system was Nightscaping about 20 years ago. ah, 8g wire back in the good old days. :dizzy:

Classic Lighting
03-29-2011, 08:10 AM
I took a one day class from my local Cast distributor 4 years ago. I had the mindset that lighting would be an additional add-on to my current landscaping business. That summer, I did 3 jobs and and got hooked. Since that initial introductory class, I can't imagine the hours that I've spent researching anything and everything about the LV business.
So yes, I am a "one day wonder" who has continued to hone my skills and learn everything I can to improve not only myself, but the LV industry too.

jlouki01
03-30-2011, 08:58 PM
Vista class 6 years ago JDL put on. I read lots of books, Janet Moyer has a great book everyone should own.. it's pricey though. I didn't know she also offered classes. Looked at doing as an add on to my existing landscape business.

If I could do just lighting that make me absolutely content. It is by far the funnest work I get to do.

LLC RI
03-30-2011, 10:38 PM
Way back in 1987, I was working with my cousins now ex husband who did lawn irrigation. We had a client who had gotten some Nightscaping from a distributor, who came out and marked where the fixtures were supposed to go. The client asked us to install the lighting for him and we did.

Once it got dark, and I got to see the results of this lighting, I was hooked. No pun intended, the proverbial LIGHTBULB went off over my head. With similar installation practices, tools etc, and similar higher end clients, lighting and irrigation made for good companion businesses.

That was November of 87. In March of 88, we got two booths at the Providence Home Show and I spent 9 days talking to people about landscape lighting as if I'd been doing it for 10 years already. I built a display with some samples I got from Nightscaping, cut and matted some of the photos from the " ORTHO" book, and talked and talked.

Here I am, 23 years later, still doing landscape lighting and STILL TALKING!~

George
Landscape Lighting Conceptshttp:///Users/nightscape/Pictures/iPhoto Library/Originals/2009/Roll 134/LLC Logo Rev.png

Utah Landscape Lighting
03-31-2011, 03:46 PM
My first job was a surprise. They never asked if i had installed a system before and it was for 26 lights. I did my research and installed it right. For those that specialize in outdoor lighting (http://www.utahlandscapelighting.com) - you quickly seem to know more than your suppliers and other professionals in the industry.

starry night
08-02-2015, 11:56 PM
Because of the recent discussions about "manufacturer's one-day seminars," I was going to start a thread about how our forum members got their start in landscape lighting. Then I came upon this old thread. Interesting. Anybody care to contribute to this subject?

As for me: Five years ago, at a couple of high-end homes where I maintained their landscapes, I discovered their landscape lighting in somewhat dis-repair.
So I asked to work on it. Just found some lamps out and some bad connections.
I started studying. More than half of what I learned, I found on this forum current and past. I signed up for a one-day at Kichler Lighting since I lived only a couple hours away from its headquarters. It turns out that I had already learned everything that was presented. However, the seminar did add a lot to my enthusiasm. Then some more repair jobs. Then my own home installation.
And on from there.

GreenLight
08-03-2015, 12:37 AM
Like many I know. I was a foreman of a mid size landscaping company and specialized in irrigation. Thus, I was really the only one who really knew how to troubleshoot low voltage circuits and I was the only one who could operate a locator and meter (for the most part). Ultimately I would get thrown to the wolves to "troubleshoot" low voltage lighting on a few of our projects and this forced me to really investigate design strategy and a long list of different techniques. I was always pretty anal about the electrical side of irrigation because when it's done wrong, it can completely compromise everything. This translated well to lighting. I ultimately began to come back to projects I repaired at night to review them. I found myself being pretty enchanted by the effects that could be created and the capacity to create a completely unique scene at night. That was about 12 years ago and I would eventually go solo and began installing a lot.

emby
08-03-2015, 12:03 PM
I was an electrician working for many years in some nasty environments such as steel mills and refineries. Progressed to becoming a Superintendent working on many large projects with many employees for a number of years. This provided me with the necessary skills on how to deal with very large complex projects along with being thoroughly trained for safety and supervisory skills.

I always enjoyed landscaping even though it was within my own yard, and this is where I started playing with light sources. I found this website when I started researching and learned a whole lot just by reading all the threads that contained a wealth of information. I was hooked....

I then reached out to James to discuss my new found passion and it was a wonderful hour long conversation. James was so eager to help and offer answers to all my questions. He suggested that I become a member of Landscape Ontario which offered many classes and symposiums on lighting. I truly began getting the itch.
There also was another gentleman in Toronto who came to my house and gave me a hands on installation of some fixtures that I purchased from him and that was a great experience as well.

So, after that and installing a few systems on the side while still working I decided I needed more education on the design aspect of this world. Thats when I splurged and went to Jan's class in 2010 and boy what an experience....
I learned a ton from the many individuals and manufacturers (too many to list now) that successfully figured a way to pull it all together to teach us baby designers and interested individuals. I joined the AOLP for a couple of years to network and learned further which was a great experience as well.

I then was asked to join the team at Jan's classes which allowed me to gain more in depth knowledge and experience playing with light. I have been very fortunate to be taken under the wing of this organization as an apprentice (so to describe) and was given the opportunity to help install and aim on some pretty amazing projects that contained over 3000 fixtures with very complex power distribution and controls. Hands on experience with aiming and focusing these laser precision systems was the ultimate guide of a lifetime. I was then offered the same experience with another designer named Greg Yale.

Over the years all these dedicated people and organizations continue to offer their life experiences and wealth of knowledge to ensure that this level of landscape lighting can continue to prosper within the lighting industry.
In Troy, NY there is a display which is called the Ten Permanent Lighting Areas. Ten manufacturers and 30 designers participated in designing and installing this amazing site to educate the general public and professionals by offering tours during the evening.
The classes continue to be offered and this year in October it will be held in another State.
I eventually quit my job doing electrical and created my own business which has been keeping me busy from referrals to this day.
As mentioned in prior threads, my website needs some updating but honestly I just have not had the time.
I have always had the mind set of a journey person / apprentice approach that provides educating and training and that is exactly how I try to offer lighting to individuals and future baby designers that show interest in learning....

Mark B
08-03-2015, 09:51 PM
I attended a sti university (99 I think) at kiawah island while I was working at elon university to learn more about irrigation, then I skipped a few install classes to take a landscape lighting class. We did a install at some house. I was like I can do that. I had my first project the first week I was back. I did irrigation repair and lighting install for several yrs. now I'm a part time lighting guy since I work at the best place to work at in the US.

Chris J
08-06-2015, 01:55 AM
My start was only supposed to be a part time gig to generate some extra income. While working at a lighting warehouse called Angelo Brothers (now owned by Westinghouse) I got the idea from one of the supervisors who had made a lame attempt at the business by installing one job then getting turned off by the night work and the fact that talking to people was a requirement. This seemed intriguing to me so I set out to create a side job with the hope of installing (maybe) one job per month. I contacted a Kichler rep (Craig Ripple) and drove down to his house one day for a meeting over dinner (he wasn't going to come to me because he thought I was just another wanna-be who would be in and out of it within a month). He explained all that he could over the few hours that we spent together and I came back home with an idea that I would send out 1,000 post cards to homes valued over $250k. Craig explained what I needed for night demos and I quickly gathered the materials. Once the post cards started hitting the mail boxes, I landed my first demo. I came up with a design for 26 lights and it took everything I had to muster the courage to tell the potential client that the cost would be a little over 4k....... Who the hell would be willing to pay that much money in the year 2000 for outdoor lights? Certainly not me, but that was my first lesson....... don't worry about my own opinion because I'm not among the people who will be my target audience. I was almost apologetic when I gave my presentation and I almost fell out of my chair when they immediately said "where do we sign?"
Within the next 3 weeks, my phone was ringing off the hook... both from the mailer as well as the neighbors who had seen what we did for our 1st client. I was returning phone calls on my breaks and I took a change of clothes to work with me so I could meet people after my shift ended. Even though the rep told me not to quit my job until I had a year under my belt to see if I liked it enough, I found that I simply no longer had time to be an employee even though it had been only 1 month since my initial meeting with Craig. I quickly found that this trade was something that I was very good at and I had an extreme passion and desire to be in business for myself. I found a couple of mentors to bounce questions off of, the main person being Steve Riggs of Illuminations USA in the Orlando area. I read any and everything I could find on the subject, talked to everyone who would listen but mainly practiced with my demo kit which included two 600w transformers and around 35 fixtures of various types. I was doing demos every night, whether it was someone who called me or someone who had a nice house that I simply asked to use for practice (I actually sold several jobs like this by the way). About one year into it, I had an accident and ended up with two broken ankles. Wheel chair for two weeks but then figured out how to drive my truck using cruise control and lifting my foot onto the brake with my hands/arms. Doing this, I continued to schedule demos at least 3 nights per week..... Funny thing about this is that I had close to a 100% closing rate during this period of time. I think it was because people either felt sorry for me or they were inspired with my determination. Either way, I ended up with over $100k in sales within my first 8 months and I truly felt blessed even though I couldn't understand how I deserved such good fortune. I also attended a few manufacturers seminars but by the time I went to these seminars, I was way ahead of the game and had already learned more than they taught me. However, there is one thing that I have learned from seminars, forums, etc..... and that is this: There is always someone that I learn something incredible from during these seminars, conferences and the like. 9 times out of 10, what I learn comes from someone who has no real experience in lighting or they just got started in the business. Whether it be a slick trick with hiding wire, a tool that I hadn't heard of before or a new way to provide a proposal or give a presentation...... There is always something invaluable to be learned from everyone, regardless of their "lighting" knowledge or experience, and I am thankful for those moments.

steveparrott
08-06-2015, 08:00 AM
Chris, and others, thanks for telling your stories. They are very inspiring. I think many outside the profession don't realize how much passion is behind landscape lighting pros. And, how much hard work goes into them learning the craft.

Bravo!

Chris J
08-06-2015, 07:25 PM
It's always fun to talk about the early years.... and man how the times have changed over the last 16 years. I will add this one additional comment though, just for conversational purposes: As long as there is a true passion for learning the craft, and those getting into the business truly find the industry a beautiful way to earn a good income while being rewarded with enormous pride when the client's eyes light up after the install, anyone can find great success with this trade with a lot of hard work and determination. However, it is those who are in it only for the money that will ultimately run into the biggest enemy of this or any other business: and that is complacency. I have seen many who make a good run at developing a business only to lose sight of their goals (if they even had goals from the start) and relax once there is a few dollars in the bank. If you really enjoy the feeling of providing happiness to your clients, you will strive to repeat that feeling as much as possible; therefore, success is inevitable.

starry night
08-06-2015, 08:15 PM
It's always fun to talk about the early years.... and man how the times have changed over the last 16 years. I will add this one additional comment though, just for conversational purposes: As long as there is a true passion for learning the craft, and those getting into the business truly find the industry a beautiful way to earn a good income while being rewarded with enormous pride when the client's eyes light up after the install, anyone can find great success with this trade with a lot of hard work and determination. However, it is those who are in it only for the money that will ultimately run into the biggest enemy of this or any other business: and that is complacency. I have seen many who make a good run at developing a business only to lose sight of their goals (if they even had goals from the start) and relax once there is a few dollars in the bank. If you really enjoy the feeling of providing happiness to your clients, you will strive to repeat that feeling as much as possible; therefore, success is inevitable.

Chris, That is far and away the best thing I have read on this forum in a long time. (Maybe ever.) I am glad I resurrected this old thread which originally didn't have so many replies. GREAT!

emby
08-06-2015, 08:47 PM
It's always fun to talk about the early years.... and man how the times have changed over the last 16 years. I will add this one additional comment though, just for conversational purposes: As long as there is a true passion for learning the craft, and those getting into the business truly find the industry a beautiful way to earn a good income while being rewarded with enormous pride when the client's eyes light up after the install, anyone can find great success with this trade with a lot of hard work and determination. However, it is those who are in it only for the money that will ultimately run into the biggest enemy of this or any other business: and that is complacency. I have seen many who make a good run at developing a business only to lose sight of their goals (if they even had goals from the start) and relax once there is a few dollars in the bank. If you really enjoy the feeling of providing happiness to your clients, you will strive to repeat that feeling as much as possible; therefore, success is inevitable.

Chris,
Very well written and what an amazing statement you just made....well done my friend....you hit the nail on the head.

Chris J
08-07-2015, 12:41 AM
Well thank you very much!! Even a blind squirrel can find a nut every now and then, but it's really just a truthful observation.

Chris J
08-10-2015, 12:02 AM
I'd also like to hear how others got their start so please don't be shy!!

The Lighting Geek
08-10-2015, 07:35 PM
I was working as a maintenance supervisor for a nursery/landscape company in 1987. The owner asked me if I could install some lighting in his back yard, so, as I had seen many other contractors do, I rented the Nightscaping demo kit from my irrigation supply house. A sales rep and I showed up at his house with the kit, had a beer with the owner and talked about how he wanted lighting. I had no idea what I was doing. I plugged the 100 watt transformer that was bolted inside the wooden tool box (green with red stenciled Nightscaping logo on it.) I held the wooden box in one hand, stretched my arm out with a Footliter to an area he requested. Ok, how many of these bad boys do you want. LOL! I pretty much was the butt of many jokes by the old timers and such.

I opened an account with the same supplier here lately and nobody was laughing anymore. Perseverance and a sense of humor will take you far in this business, as many will agree. 'A blackbelt is a white belt that didn't quit, it turned black through determination'

I have a wooden demo kit in my shop with the fixtures still in it to remind myself where it started. Today we are a pretty serious lighting design and installation firm in Sacramento, CA., also in San Francisco, Orange County areas.