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Large Canopy - How bright a spotlight?

Discussion in 'Ask' started by kmodea, Sep 8, 2020.

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  1. kmodea

    kmodea New Member

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    Hi there,
    We want to uplight the canopy at the bottom of our backyard - some walnuts, and others (roughly 100'x40' of canopy). I am leaning towards the integrated spotlights (G4, G3?), but I don't want it to be crazy bright down there, but I also don't want the light to not reach the canopy. Just looking for a good middle ground.

    I know it's all personal preference, but if anyone has any thoughts on how bright I should go (or how many lights I should get), I'd appreciate it!
     

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  2. Mesodude2

    Mesodude2 Active Member

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    Hi, kmodea. In terms of brightness, I think you'll want to carefully consider the vantage points from which you'll be viewing that stand of trees the most. It's possible what you might think is "crazy bright" while you're walking along that pathway at night looks perfectly lit when viewed some distance away (when you're near or inside your house, for example). So if it's really important for you to enjoy the lighting from both vantage points, you may have to strike a balance (if that makes sense). As an example, in my modestly sized front yard, I have a large 25-30 ft tall oak tree which I've illuminated with two 60 degree 2W spotlights flanking the trunk and four 60 degree 2W well lights evenly spaced along the perimeter of the drip line. That probably sounds like a lot of lights but dispersed throughout the yard, the light filters up into the canopy of the tree. IMO, the effect is soft and warm. From inside the house, the effect is quite dramatic. From a block or so away, the tree just faintly glows. I could have gone with brighter lamps but I felt that would be overkill (since there's very little ambient light where my house is located). I could have also just used a couple of flood lights of 4W or higher but I didn't want anything that bright so close to my house. Because those trees are some distance from your house, I think lights with higher lumens (4, 5, 6 or even 7 watters) might be perfect.

    Since you'd probably be installing a dozen or more lights and since the fixtures and lamps can't be returned once you've tested them, if I were you I'd purchase one of the lamp ready spotlights and maybe test out a lamp or two. IMO, this is a fairly efficient and cost effective way to get a sense of how much brightness you'll want in your overall lighting plan. The advantage to experimenting with a lamp ready fixture is that you may find that you don't need the brightness level available in some of the integrated fixtures. Evan will correct me if I'm wrong but I believe that the lamp ready fixtures offer more options in terms of your ability to tweak your light level (with filters, for example).

    Having said all that, I think those trees and pathway were made for moonlighting/downlighting (see photos) so if that's in your budget, it's definitely worth considering. Hope this helps.

    IMG_6730.jpeg IMG_6729.jpeg
     

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    Last edited: Sep 9, 2020
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  3. kmodea

    kmodea New Member

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    Wow, thanks so much for your thoughtful answer. You've definitely given me a lot to chew on. I've been paying more attention to lumens...350...500... Should I be more focused on the wattage?
     
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  4. Robert Mason

    Robert Mason Member

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    kmodea: Wattage, or lumens, is important, but so is beam angle. The photo you included appears to be taken with a wide angle lens setting - everything leans inward at the top. If that’s the case and if you can, take pictures from further away at different locations around the canopy (down the street, a neighbors back yard), such that you can get the entire canopy in the frame without distortion. Print them out and then overlay them with 24, 35, 38, 60 and 110 degree triangles. This will give you an idea of how many lights you will need and where to place them. The integrated spotlights have a standard 60 degree lens, with 24 and 35 degree options. I installed a couple of 60 degree G4 30s under my two front yard oak trees. The subtle 350 lumen light (about 4 watts) turned out to be perfect for gently lighting my tree foliage. You will obviously need a higher wattage to reach the upper canopy of your trees. As Meso suggests, some experimentation may be needed to determine what wattage to use. With that in mind, one option would be to purchase one G4 40 and one G4 60 and then experiment with different optic lens and diffusion filters, which only cost 3 bucks each.

    Another option would be to experiment with a single MR16 spotlight using bulbs of different wattages (5 and 7, equivalent to 400 and 500 lumens - the MR16 bulb shopping section lists the equivalents) and beam angles (38, 60 and 110). Adding diffusion and frosted lenses will give you a broad range of options to work with to determine what works best for you. Bulb temperature is also an option to consider, but I find 3000K and 4000K light to be harsher than 2700K light, while 2200K is too orange. But that’s just me.

    Experiment, have fun. A little planning and work now will pay off by defining exactly work works best for you before you spend the big bucks needed to do the entire canopy. By the time I finished my install, I ended up with a small box full of spare bulbs and lens but got the end result that I personally wanted. You can do the same. One last suggestion - if you decide to go with the G4 lights, I highly recommend the extended glare guards. They do an excellent job of minimizing glare without cutting off beam spreads.
     
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  5. kmodea

    kmodea New Member

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    Robert, thank you! I think I will do what you suggest, and see where it takes me. Yes, it was a wide angled shot on my iPhone - I was trying to fit the whole backyard in one picture!

    I lit up the front of our house a few years ago with Volt, and in retrospect, that was an easy project compared to lighting up these giant trees! But I promised my daughter light at the bottom of the hill for her to have a "socially distant" camp-out birthday party, so I need to get busy! Good excuse to finally get this project off the house bucket list. It's pitch black down there otherwise.

    Thanks again, all.
     
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  6. Robert Mason

    Robert Mason Member

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    Kmodea: Something else I thought of. If you go with MR16 spotlights for your trees, the Top Dog would be best. For most applications, spotlights are angled so that water drains off of the lens. In your case, you will want to maximize beam spread by pointing the light straight up. The convex lens on the Top Dog prevents any water from pooling on the lens, allowing it to seep away in the gap between the glare guard and the light casing. Then again, this won’t matter if you plan to locate your lights on the outside edge of your property and angle them up at the foliage, in which case, any of the spotlights would work.

    The worst spotlight for a vertical lighting application is the Fat Boy, as the glare guard and lens are a single, integrated piece. I used Fat Boys to light a brick wall which was fine as long as the light was tilted toward the wall. When I pointed the light straight up to simultaneously uplight some Holly trees by the wall, water pooled in the lens. I had the drill a weep hole in the glare guard just above the lens in order to let the water drain off (another mistake I made in my Covid, stay at home lighting project, probably voiding the warranty as well).

    One last thought - have you considered using well lights? They would eliminate any tripping hazard potential around the volleyball net, as well as damage from wayward lawn mowers and grass trimmers. The integrated light is equivalent to the G4 60, while the bulb ready lamps use MR16s.
     
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  7. kmodea

    kmodea New Member

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    Hi Robert,
    Thanks again for your time and information. Yes, I have some Fat Boys as well serving the same function out front on the brick.

    Funny you mention well lights. I have actually considered them for this project - have a couple in our front yard in fact. However, I was thinking of just placing them right in the middle of the yard down there, but thought maybe that would be considered an odd placement? Perhaps not right in the middle, but somewhere out in the grass where the kids are playing. Is that a recommended/common practice? I tried Googling it a few days ago even, and couldn't find any similar placements...

    The two well lights out front are under some mid-sized trees, and are close to the trunks, so there is never any worry about them being trampled or mowed over...
     
  8. Robert Mason

    Robert Mason Member

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    When asking about placement, you have me way out of my element. Perhaps Meso or Evan can help.
     
  9. Mesodude2

    Mesodude2 Active Member

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    Yes to well lights near the base of the trees (the one linked below is very sturdy). Well lights further inside the turf area of that pathway could be problematic, imo. Even the lowest lumens appear super bright when you're walking or standing over or near them, especially when there's little to no ambient light. Frosted lenses and honeycomb filters could mitigate this problem somewhat but only when the fixtures are viewed from shallower angles. If you want to provide some area lighting for your daughter's camping, I'd go with lower profile path lights that casts a wide beam.

    https://www.voltlighting.com/shop/landscape-lighting/commercial-par36-in-ground-well-light
     
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  10. Robert Mason

    Robert Mason Member

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    Meso, good point about lights on pathways. Even my 2 watt Sparks are somewhat blinding when I walk past them. Bob
     
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  11. Mesodude2

    Mesodude2 Active Member

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    Hehe. Like you, I have a fair number of spare bulbs from my install trial and error process. My biggest surprise was the brightness of path lights. To this newbie, 2W sounded like it would be the equivalent of like a birthday candle. But when the lights came on the first time, I realized those lumens are amplified by the reflective paint under the hat and the light is bouncing off of the stonework on my walkway. So I was glad I had ignored my instinct to go brighter.
     
  12. kmodea

    kmodea New Member

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    Wow - a quick ship from Volt. I bought a couple of the G4's to see what might be best. This is the 500 lumens version, but frankly anything brighter is going to be "crazy bright" for me :). It looks a lot brighter in the picture than it really is thanks to the 3 sec iPhone night shot. That's just one light! I'd say I'd only need 2 or 3 of these, and then something a bit more subtle to round things out...

    @Mesodude2 I have those exact well lights out front. I'm actually going to remove them tomorrow and experiment with them in the backyard. One is "turned off" after we had to remove a 60-year-old dogwood last year. The other one is lighting up a slowly dying American yellowwood. Yay old houses.

    Thanks everyone. This is fun.

    Kevin
     

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  13. Robert Mason

    Robert Mason Member

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    Wow is right, that is impressive. Post the completed project in the Share section when you are done, with pictures and descriptions of the lights used and where they were placed. Enjoy. Bob
     
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  14. Mesodude2

    Mesodude2 Active Member

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    I’m still working on my night time photography skills. Your pic is helpful because it at least gives others a sense of the power and beam spread coverage. And yep, VOLT’s shipping is usually blazingly fast. Glad you’re enjoying the process.