How Do You Light A Tree?

A Common Question Further Explained…

How do you light a tree with landscape lighting? Well…that’s a trick question. Not every tree is created equal and not every tree calls for the same application as the next. We’re here to help explain.

Where we are located in Charleston, South Carolina,  we see a wide variety of trees on our projects ranging from live oak trees, palmetto trees, crape myrtles and olive trees just to name a few. Whether it be new construction where newly planted trees have been installed or it’s an existing landscape where trees have had years to blossom and mature, our knowledgeable design staff is always prepared for the best design techniques to best illuminate your trees.

In this blog post, we’re going to show you a beautiful live oak tree illuminated in three very different ways.

Let’s start with the most basic method.



In this photo we have positioned three fixtures on the ground, about 30′ away from the tree and aimed them to illuminate the tree. In the big picture, the whole tree is illuminated and it’s being shown off in all of its beauty. Essentially, it’s the easiest way to illuminate this tree while still accomplishing a positive effect. While still very effective, we can probably do a little better and create a little more interest within this scene.



In this photo, were aiming for a different effect. We’re looking to create interest and we’re looking to enhance the limb structure. This is what makes the live oak tree so unique and a focal point within many lowcountry landscapes. Live oak tree limbs tend to sprawl and crawl in their own way. This makes them so unique and quite honestly, so much fun illuminate.

For the “grazing” technique, we’ve positioned three up lights closer to the tree than what you see in the previous photo and focused on the limb structure of the tree. This allows you have a better visual of the detail of the tree and limb structure.

Tree Mounted Up & Down Lighting:

Tree Mounted Up And Down Lighting
Tree Mounted Up And Down Lighting

Let’s say this tree is in a high traffic area and we need to keep fixtures off the ground so they don’t become a hindrance, thats where this technique comes into play. In this photo, the oak is illuminated with fixtures all mounted within the tree itself. We have two fixtures mounted about 15′ up, aimed up into the canopy while we have three down lights, mounted at about 35′ aimed down. One is aimed through the center of the tree, picking up the trunk while the other two are picking up the right and left side of the tree. The down lights as a whole create some great shadowing on the ground plane below. We’re again focusing on the detail of the tree and further enhancing what makes the oak tree the specimen tree that it is. What we’re accomplishing here is illuminating the top parts of the limbs that cannot be picked up by just simply up lighting.

By combining up lighting and down lighting, we’re painting a multidimensional picture as opposed to the one dimensional technique you see with the first two techniques.

If you want to see this in person… you can find it at the Addlestone Library on the College of Charleston campus where it permanently illuminated with technique No. 3 (tree mounted up and down lighting.) Because it is in fact in a very high traffic area, that is why we elected to design with this method.


Contact our office today and schedule a consultation with one of our award winning designers and learn more about how Moonlighting can assist in creating a custom landscape lighting design for your home or business.

Be sure to also follow Moonlighting on Facebook, Instagram and Houzz to keep up with our daily happenings!

Moonlighting Hits The Track At The BMW Performance Center

The Whole Moonlighting Crew
The Whole Moonlighting Crew!

Moonlighting recently took part in a company outing and it was one for the ages! Moonlighting President (and BMW owner) Mike Rollins had always wanted to see what it was like to take on the BMW Performance Center. With months of planning he made that a reality… for the entire company!

We decided to close the office for two days and make the trek to Spartanburg, S.C. where the BMW Performance Center is located, along with the 6.2 million square foot factory that produces a number of BMW models that are assembled and shipped out worldwide.

We warmed up with a quick lunch and brief overview of what we would be doing with two incredibly skilled BMW instructors, Guiness Book of World Records holder, Johan Scwhartz and accomplished racer Laura Hayes. We would eventually split up into two groups. Group A would head towards the off-road experience for some all-terrain fun and Group B would head towards the tracks to hit high speeds and challenges to test how these luxury vehicles handle.

The off road course consisted of Moonlighters pushing the BMW X-5 to the limit on a series of steep embankments, challenging descents and even balancing these performance machines on two-wheels at one point. The name of the game on this course was quite the opposite of speed. It was all about finesse!

The street course is where the real competition took place. To warm things up, each group had the opportunity to get behind the wheel of five different models ranging from the M2, the M4, the 850i, etc. We started out running each model a few laps through a series of short straightaways and short turns, reaching speeds upwards of 100 mph.

Next, it was on to the timed circuit course where the real fun was had. Each Moonlighter got behind the wheel of an M4 and was given the opportunity to run six timed laps, going through a series of slaloms and challenging turns. Their fastest, cleanest lap (not hitting any cones or coming to a complete stop outside the designated finish line) would be counted as their best lap. If we didn’t already know before, we found out today that Moonlighting is one competitive group!

In the end there were only three spots on the podium. First place was taken by Installation Tech Ricky Eckert, second place by Installation Foreman Mike Ned and third place by Moonlighting President Mike Rollins.

To end the day, we each had the opportunity to hop in with Johan and Laura and they took us on a “hot lap” where we reached high speeds, quick turns and even a drift lap on the very course where Johan set his world record of the longest consecutive drift. We’re not sure any of us knew what to expect when we got in the cars with our instructors, but it was by far the fastest and most extreme driving that any of us could have even imagined.

The competition continued that evening at the Stone Pin Company in downtown Greenville where we turned in our driving gloves for bowling shoes. In the end, it was a clean sweep for Ricky as he took first place on the track and first place on the bowling lanes, bowling the highest score for the evening. Congrats, Ricky!!

We would cap the trip off the next morning by taking an exclusive tour of the BMW Plant and learned first-hand the assembly process from start to finish of several BMW models. Following the tour, we got to wander through the BMW museum and the history of these automobiles.

What a trip this was and what a way for everyone to have a little company bonding outside of the office! To see some highlights of our trip, check out our video below.

Make sure you’re following Moonlighting on social media so you can see what we’re up to. You can follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Houzz!

Moonlighting Heads To The Sunshine State For Newest Design

Our latest project takes us to a new part of the country… Winter Park, Florida. Over our nearly 30 years business, our designs have taken us to many locations outside of our home base of Charleston, SC,  including the Bahamas, California, Tennessee, Alabama and Maine, just to name a few. We are no strangers to packing up our tools and traveling where our services are needed.

In the latter part of 2018 we were contacted by Randy Boyd of Thurston Boyd Interior Design located in Laguna Beach, California. Randy had a special project located in Winter Park, Florida and tasked Moonlighting with the outdoor lighting scope. Within a few weeks, our lead designer Matt Carli boarded a flight to Florida for a site visit and to cultivate a custom outdoor lighting plan.

After several months of construction and landscape renovations, it was time for Moonlighting to pack up and head south! In early March, the Moonlighting installation crew and Matt spent the week installing this custom design. It was four busy days on site, the design itself required the installation of over 40 tree mounted fixtures, mounted anywhere from 24′-32′ along with over 60 fixtures on the ground.

This three acre property boasted some incredible design opportunities that we were really excited about. Upon entry to the property, the driveway is flanked by an allee of live oak trees that would serve as natural light poles to softly wash the driveway. When sitting inside the house, or on the pool deck the landscape itself offers focal points from all angles by means of more live oak trees that we would be both up lighting and down lighting, palm tree clusters, sword fern beds, etc. When talking about some of the design elements, Matt noted…

“One of my favorite parts of this design was picking up the textures of the giant sword ferns from the trees above. The plant material here in Charleston is somewhat similar to what we were working with in Florida, maybe a little more tropical in FL,  but seeing these huge ferns serving as natural groundcovers was something I knew we had to pick up successfully. The only way to do that was from above.”

Another element of the design was incorporating an antique chandelier that came all the way from Paris, France into the lighting design. We made this happen by independently hanging a small fixture inside the chandelier. With the unique details in the chandelier, this application would provide some incredible shadows onto the ground plain below. We then hung the chandelier about 30′ above the driveway making a permanent fixture within the lighting design.

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Moonlighting always enjoys the opportunity to work in a new location as this was an exciting and creative project that we were very fortunate to be a part of. When asked about the design process, Randy Boyd stated…

“I brought in Matt to design the lighting for a 3 acre residential project in Winter Park, FL. He and his crew were so professional and completed the installation in a timely fashion. The evening of the “unveiling” both my clients and myself were blown away. Thank you Matt, your lighting design was truly magical!”

See more pictures of this incredible project below. Be sure to follow Moonlighting on Facebook and now Instagram to keep up with our daily happenings!

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