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Friday, June 24, 2011

Night Lights and Light Pollution

Would anyone like to guess why I was out after dark taking pictures with a flash in my garden?

Was I just randomly taking pictures hoping that when I uploaded them and looked at them more closely, I would find evidence of garden fairies?

Had I suddenly become fascinated with the look of pictures taken in the dark with a flash?

 Was I trying to take pictures of fireflies lit up at night?

The answers are maybe no, no, and maybe, though I will not admit to the third one or the first one.

As soon as I was outside in the garden in the dark with my camera watching as little fireflies occasionally flew by and lit up for just a second, I realized that I would need far more patience, far more time, and far more skill to even hope to capture a picture of a firefly lit up in the garden.

I did happen to take a picture of this one which landed on my truck while I was standing there at dusk.

Firefly on truck.

Fireflies provide as much light as anything else in my garden when they appear in early summer. I do not have any landscape lighting, other than a porch light and some flood lights on the corner of the house that I only turn on when I am mowing at dusk. Most people would not call those lights "landscape lighting". They don't up-light any trees, illuminate the path through Woodland Follies, or cast interesting shadows on the house.

I did notice while out mowing after dark the other night that going from the dark of the far side of the lawn into the light of the floodlights near the house can be a bit disorienting when you do it every few minutes. It takes a minute to adjust to seeing in the bright light when you enter it from a dark corner, and then it takes just as long to orient to the dark when you move away from the light.

This all reminded me of a comment about light pollution that Rosalind Creasy made when she spoke in Indianapolis last fall. She said landscape lighting is causing issues for insects, birds, bats, and other wildlife. I didn't know much about light pollution then, and I don't profess to know much about it now.  Doing a very quick search online, I found an article from National Geographic on light pollution with some basic information. I suspect there is probably a lot more information to be found that would shed light on this subject (pun intended, perhaps).

For the time being, I've decided that after all these years with no landscape lighting, I'm in no hurry to add lighting to my newly designed garden. I'm content to let the dark be dark, at least as dark as it can be, here on the edge of the city.

After all, there are birds, bunnies, bugs, bats, and perhaps a garden fairy or two out in the garden who probably appreciate the dark more than the light, so I want to make sure they have some dark here in my garden, to encourage them to stay.

(Did I just write that I wanted to encourage bunnies to stay here?)

14 comments:

The Sproutling said...

I'm not a great fan of lights in gardens, except for a few candles or a firepit meybe. I think electric lights jar because of their artificiality.

Layanee said...

I like the dark. Lights are only necessary for getting to the car and to the house without the boogie man attacking. He is afraid of lights you know. Why don't people just turn them off?

Gail said...

I do like to have a path to my front porch lit for guests~But, generally don't have lighting in the garden except candles. I do wish that cities would start dealing with light pollution~It's a huge issue.
gail

Earth Girl said...

Carol, the Amos W. Butler Audubon Society has a program called Lights Out Indy designed to protect migrating birds. The birds get disoriented by excessive lighting and crash into buildings. It's a huge problem downtown.

Karin / Southern Meadows said...

Great post and a very important topic! I only have what I call "security lights"...motion lights at the corner of the house and by the garage and front door. Recently we had some proposals from landscape designers and they all incorporated landscape lighting into their designs...No thank you! I recently read that the Cercropia moth is in decline partly because of so much light pollution!

Kathy said...

When we first moved to our country home over 20 years ago, we had a fantastic view of the Milky Way, as good as you see in photographs from observatories. No more. The next door neighbor installed floodlights, other houses were built in the area and lighted, and one family even paid to have a street light. No more Milky Way. If you are ever lucky enough to have the power go out in your city on a clear night, look up. You will be amazed.

Leslie said...

I have several outdoor lights in my garden and I love them. But they are there for gatherings that go into the evening past dark. I don't turn them on otherwise but love having them for the times they are needed.

ProfessorRoush said...

Carol, I'm with you. I've long been sensitive to what we humans have done to the night sky, particularly since my own Kansas sky has been dimmed by the encroachment of town. A plea against photopollution was one of my first blogs last year, myself (seen at http://kansasgardenmusings.blogspot.com/2010/07/please-turn-out-lights.html)

greggo said...

I agree. I went out a couple of nights ago to do some long exposures to try and capture some lightning flashes. Well all I got was yellow sodium light from the street light. Yuck! I guess I need to start moving into total darkness.

Dee/reddirtramblings said...

Very thoughtful post. As you know, I live out the country so light pollution isn't much of a problem here, but the city is creeping ever northward. One day, I may have a problem with light pollution too. Thanks.~~Dee

compost in my shoe said...

We put candles out for parties, but have not done any permanent night lighting. I like that you have lightning bugs. As a kid in rural Ohio, we had summers filled with them lighting up the night air.

Byddi - We didn't come here for the grass... said...

I was so disappointed to learn there weren't any fireflys where I live in California. I'd seen them on the East cpast and just assumed they were all over - they are almost magical!

Nell Jean said...

What really creeps me out is solar lights on cemetery plots.

Jim Lewis said...

I miss fireflies. Why don't they thrive here in South Carolina? Every other insect does...sigh...