Down lighting accentuates key features of the landscape.
By placing illumination directly over an element, it reveals both the geometry of that element and the relationship of that element to other elements on the property. This allows homeowners and guests to appreciate the richness of the landscape design plan as they move from point to point throughout the property at night.
Down lighting is made possible by special fixtures that are mounted above the object or area of interest. In professional landscape lighting, these fixtures must be concealed as much as possible to avoid distracting the eye of the viewer. The intention here is to illuminate the subject without the visible appearance of technology. To accomplish this, special equipment is often needed, and the assistance of lighting specialists who know how to mount equipment in special locations where it will not be seen.
If a situation prohibits such concealment, then a decorative fixture is used that will add to the aesthetic of the scene. For example, courtyards are often down lighted by fixtures that are mounted on the masonry walls that surround the patio. They can also be illuminated by fixtures mounted in the overhanging branches of trees. What results in both scenarios is a wash of light that brings out the richness of the patio design and provides a clearly lit surface that makes for an enjoyable gathering place for all.
Another area where down lighting is very important is garden design. Professional gardens are very complex structures that take a great deal of time and effort to create. There are many types of garden design as well, including formal, cultural, historical, cultural, and contemporary.
Each of these designs will be plunged into impenetrable shadows at night if they are not properly lit with the right type of lighting at precisely the right level. Special features in the garden are lit with up lights that shine up from the ground. The garden as a whole, though, is lit from above with lights that shine down on its entirety and mark its place on the landscape as a position of prominence.
Patio design is another element of professional landscaping that requires a great deal of down lighting to do its aesthetic true justice. Because patios are flush with the level of the ground, there is no opportunity to up light their surfaces. All light must come from above and wash over the surface of the patio so as to create a field of luminance that provides both functional and aesthetic support for landscape design.
When patios are surrounded by masonry walls, fixtures can be placed on the tops of the walls to shine down on the surface below. If a patio is not surrounded by a vertical structure, however, the task of lighting its surface becomes much more of a challenge. Lights will have to be placed on the roof of the house, a nearby outdoor structure, or even in the branches of trees to provide the necessary illumination.
Other places where down lighting can have a special impact on the landscape include natural ponds, porches, intersecting walkways, and even custom fountains. On some larger properties with exceptionally large trees, special lights can be placed high in the branches to create pools of artificial moonlight around the perimeter of the root system. These fields of luminosity often help maintain a sense of visible continuity on a property that otherwise would be lost in darkness due to its size.