The Lights of the Cemetery, 2014

Last week, I shared my ambient audio track selections that made up the soundtrack to my yard haunt. Today, I'll share the other important piece of my display, my lighting setup. Lighting is something that I have really focused on over the past few years, and after continuous refinement, has really increased the visual punch of my yard haunt.

Be aware that there are a lot of different ways to get a great lighting effect, this is just the solution that I use in my yard haunt.

Here is a shot from this year's display. There is a warm color overtone throughout the display, with subtle, cool highlights for my tombstones and props. I'm pretty lucky, as the base for the warm overtone is actually provided by my city.

I'm fortunate enough to have a streetlight at the corner of my front yard that gives off a really nice yellow-orange light, perfect for Halloween. It's a bright light, too, so I use as much of that light as I can in my display.

The rich, warm light together with the big old oak tree provide the perfect base color for my display. It really sets up some nice highlights and stark shadows, providing an uneasy entry to the rest of the display. Streetlights further up the block also provide backlight to help carry the warm glow across the entire yard.

Below is a shot of the front yard without any of the Halloween display. You can really see in this photo how the yellow light illuminates the entire yard and gives the base needed to build in my color highlights.

Usually, I let this light illuminate my secondary props, including the old wooden crosses in my potter's field. These crosses are on the far left side of my display. The flat light gives them a slight glow, but also keeps them in the background, framing the main tombstones in the center of the display.

These wooden crosses and jack-o-lanterns are on the far right side of the display. The flat lighting here achieves the same thing, forming the opposite end of the display.

With the yellow-orange glow from the streetlights set, I then build my colors from there. I start with some flood lighting for the front of my house. A big portion of my haunt is contained in my front porch, so I want to make sure that the house is included as part of the display. I use an outdoor floodlamp with a red holiday bulb to illuminate the front of the house. I also have a large Rhododendron, so I set the lamp at its base. With the light traveling up through the branches, some really nice shadows are projected. 

Here is the outdoor floodlamp and bulb that I use. The base of the lamp is a stake, so you can stick it right into the ground.

As an added effect for the house, I also picked up a large roll of transparent green plastic cellophane (from Pat Catan's) for the windows. I simply cut the pieces to fit the windows, doubled them up and taped the pieces to the inside of the window sills. When you turn on the lights inside the rooms, you get a really nice green glow outside. A nice subtle detail to complete the front of the house!

With the front of the house now lit and detailed, I can move to the tombstones in the display. I start with another outdoor floodlamp (like the one above), this time with a blue holiday bulb, and project it onto the front of the Highbury obelisk. This sets up as a strong swatch of cool color and becomes a center focus in the middle of the cemetery. And when the blue light wraps around the obelisk, it mixes with the red floodlamp behind it and casts a bit of a purple light.

The back row of tombstones, along with other important props throughout the yard, all get lit with standard 8.5" aluminum flood lights with colored light bulbs. I have about five or six of the flood lamps and I insert an array of bulb colors for each, depending on what prop it will be used for. I have a nice collection of green, red, orange and blue bulbs to use for accent lighting on the props.

A blue light was used to illuminate the Vodoun Wayfinder prop. I ended up setting the light to the side of the prop and glancing the light across the front of it instead of a straight-on highlight. I think it worked well and gave the prop a much creepier look in the indirect light.

And I set up an orange bulb to highlight my talking cemetery greeter at the base of the driveway. I positioned the light on the ground and then aimed the light straight on so that it would also illuminate the wooden crosses in front of it.

I also use these lights for the front porch crypt. I went with cold blue and green colors only (outside of the orange accent color above the corpse in the coffin and a grouping of LED candles), as I wanted the room to be a stark contrast to the bold colors of the cemetery. I wanted to keep the light low and gently illuminate the thick fog that was in the room.

Once all of the prop accent flood lighting was taken care of, I could then move to the most important lighting - the front row of tombstones. This is the main focus in the entire display, so I wanted to use the boldest accents of color to draw the eye in.

And four years ago, I found a great solution. I found a set of cheap LED bulbs from an eBay seller in Hong Kong. They came in a set of five, but the really great part is that it also came with a controller for the bulbs. You can actually point the controller at the bulb and pick one of 16 different colors for the bulb to display.

The bulbs screw right into a standard 5.5" aluminum flood lamp (that I painted flat black), and I now set up a row of five, all pointed at the fronts of tombstones. With the color controller, I can set up any number of color combinations, although I tend to choose cool colors to really pop the stones' contrast. The bulbs cast an intense beam of color and really highlight whatever they are cast upon. The light even travels beyond the tombstones and mixes with other accent lighting behind it to create new color mixes throughout the display.

These bulbs are really what took my display to the next level and I use them for everything. Whenever I do a lighted shot for showing off my new props, I set up one of these bulbs for the color lighting. I can't recommend these bulbs enough!

With a quick eBay search, you can find plenty of these bulbs for sale!! 

And that's it! I hope that with this information, I showed you the fun and importance of a good lighting set up and that with the solutions that I use in my display, also showed you that it can be done on a cheap budget. Happy Haunting!  Only 339 days until Halloween!!



Mantan Calaveras said...

What a great tutorial, thank you!

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