Become a lighting ninja

Like the ninja hitting the target with a throwing star, we must be able to hit our targets with the right beam spread, wattage and Kelvin temperature.
lighting ninja art concealment

The ninja were special soldiers in medieval Japan. Part of the ninja training was the art of concealment and camouflage. These soldiers could appear to be anyone, like a farmer or a storekeeper. This was a practice of being hidden in plain sight. In lighting, we take the example of Frank Nightingale and Bill Locklin. Both of these lighting ninjas teach us this art of concealment.

Nightingale built garden fixtures and accessories that looked like normal pieces associated with gardens. His birdhouse fixture is a perfect example. During the day, this fixture looks like a common birdhouse on a pole. At night with the use of a lens it created an illusion of a full moon lighting effect. Locklin preached the effect of “The light is seen, not the source.” The art of hiding fixtures is a concept that has been lost over the years. Many contractors are merely installing and not designing. The professional designer takes time to analyze every lighting situation.

The medieval ninja were skilled in specialized weapons. One of the most well-known one was the shuriken throwing star. It took many years of practice and training to be accurate with this weapon. A lighting ninja is also skilled with weapons. Their weapons are lamps and lighting modules. Both are available in a variety of wattages and optic selections. Like the ninja hitting the target with a throwing star, we must be able to hit our targets with the right beam spread, wattage and Kelvin temperature.

Surprise attacks were another trait of the ninja. The art of surprise is also used by the lighting ninja. Providing the customer that little something extra always leads to a positive surprise. Perhaps you find out that your customer supports a specific cause. Many causes are associated with light colors. Installing a few extra fixtures in the proper color results in the customers talking you up to all their friends. Chances are that their friends support the same cause. Since you installed a great system, another job could be waiting for you around the corner.

Ninja would act swiftly and with great accuracy. When the leader would give an order, it would need to be carried out immediately with precision. Lighting ninjas work quickly to set up appointments for job walks, demos and ultimately provide a detailed quote for a customer. This keeps them way ahead of any possible competitors.

Preparing for a mission was of the upmost importance to the ninja. All the soldiers in a clan would make sure their equipment and weapons were in the proper place and ready for battle. Lighting ninja do the same. The lighting ninja’s truck is well stocked with all the tools, lighting sources, connections, cable and power supplies. This allows them to perform an installation or repair quickly and accurately.

The ninja of the ancient world had a great intellect and would develop a photographic memory. This would allow them to recall entry and exit points as well as other techniques. As a lighting ninja progresses in their craft, they similarly develop a photographic memory. As they practice with light sources daily, the lighting ninja can recall what to use on specific plant material and architecture.

Learn the techniques and become a lighting ninja! There are many resources and organizations ready to help you become a lighting ninja. I would recommend the following:

  • “The Original Garden Lighting Book” by F.B. Nightingale with commentary by Michael Gambino and Mark Carlsen
  • “The Landscape Lighting Book” by Janet Lennox Moyer
  • “The Landscape Lighting Guide” by Paul Gosselin Organizations such as the Association of Outdoor Lighting Professionals and the International Landscape Lighting Institute are also good resources.

Be sure to keep in touch with your local manufacturers’ reps for ongoing virtual and in person seminars.

With all of these resources you will understand the ways of the lighting ninja!

This column originally appeared in Irrigation & Green Industry magazine.
Kevin Smith is the national technical support and trainer at Brilliance LED LLC, Carefree, Arizona, and can be reached at

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