Landscape Lighting: Science or Art?

The idea of landscape lighting was relatively simple in the past. You fitted bulbs into recesses in the ground or patio sides, installed a few spots in the trees, and that was the end of it. But today, people have seen the “light” and want more of an artistic approach to their garden or yard lighting.

Lighting up the outdoors is as much a science as it is an art form. Business owners pay thousands of dollars for commercial property lighting, and even private home owners with large properties spend big bucks on lighting alone. So where does this leave the average home owner with an average-sized garden and an average-sized budget? In a good place…let’s take a look.

A Balanced Approach

Research on ambient lighting is an advanced subject that is definitely more of a science than an art, but its actual and effective use is certainly an artistic endeavor. The science of lighting is concerned with efficiency, miniaturization, luminosity and other aspects of artificial light itself, while the way in which the lighting is used to enhance the aesthetic qualities of a garden, yard, pathway, pool, etc. is nothing short of art at its most creative. So the question really is not whether landscape lighting is a science or an art, but whether advanced technology can be used to create stunning visual effects that are characteristically considered to be art. The answer is an emphatic “YES!”

Let’s take a look at what technology can bring to the table, and then explore the artistic possibilities landscape lighting can offer.

The Science Aspects

Modern lighting is focused on the ideas of small, bright and power-efficient. LEDs offer all three benefits, and are a preferred choice for today’s lighting needs, although compact fluorescent and incandescent lamps are still very much in vogue in some parts of the world. But the desire to be carbon footprint-conscious is making more and more people shift to the highly efficient LEDs. Another contribution to technology is alternative power, such as solar energy. If you go to a lighting store today, you’ll see them occupy a considerable portion of the displays; again, the need to be power-efficient is a driving factor.

Solar technology not only allows lighting to be free-standing, but since they can work in dim or low light, they’re also perfect for climatic regions that don’t acquire much sunlight. Technology has also given birth to several different forms of lighting for varying functional purposes: security, safety, accenting, visibility, etc. Each type of lighting is meant for a different purpose, and each is designed with that purpose in mind.

The Artistic Considerations

On the artistic front, the rules are clear: fixtures and bulbs should never be seen – only the light against the various landscape elements must be visible. The rest of it is made up of purely creative choices, although it takes some education and experience to do a really great job. DIY lighting is still the most popular form, although a landscape lighting consultant might be a better option for a truly stunning, professional look. The color of lighting, the intensity, the focus and dispersion – these are the equivalent of the artist’s palette and brushes to the landscaper. A professional will look at every aspect of your property before making recommendations, but the final effect will be worth the patience and expense. The basic approach to lighting is to use the landscape features the way an artist uses a canvas or other medium to express herself or himself.

Landscape lighting can be neither pure science nor pure art. It is a combination of both, and the better you understand both aspects, the better the outcome. The marriage of the two will give birth to the right combination in the form of a rousing “WOW” by all who see the final effect.