Pt Defiance Rhododendron Garden

There’s no place I’d rather be this time of year than the Pacific Northwest if for no other reason than it’s Rhododendron season.  The cool, wet weather we’ve been having this Spring seems perfect for Rhododendrons; they last much longer in cool, wet weather.  No wonder the Coast Rhododendron is our State Flower.

While Rhodies look beautiful in neighborhood yards, including ours, they really stand out when seen in a forest setting, their natural habitat. Leslie and I are lucky to live a short walk from the Pt. Defiance Rhododendron Garden and have already visited several times this year.

Red and White Rhododendrons

The native Rhodies are are “pink to rose-purple, and are rarely white,” something like this.

Pink Rhododendron

On the visit where I took my camera, though, the white Rhododendrons, native or not, took center stage

White and Pink Rhododendron

and stood out in the shade of towering fir trees.


It’s clear that most of the Rhodies in the garden aren’t native, and ones like this bright orange Rhodie with its bell-like shape seem almost exotic.

Orange Rhododendron

I still prefer the pinkish-red Rhodies that thrive in nearby mountains and in my childhood neighborhoods, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate exotic beauty from far-away lands.

Walking Tacoma’s Dunes Trail

More often than not when I walk outside I’m birding and carrying my Canon with a 600 mm lens.  If I don’t expect to see birds, I sometimes leave my camera at home and focus on walking fast and covering more miles.  

On a recent walk on the Dunes Trail I was slowed by the beautiful flowers. Beginning with several Azaleas bordering the parking lot.  

Pink Azalea

Of course, I had to stop, pull out my iPhone and get a closeup of them.

Closeup of Azalea blossoms

The path on the other side of the bridge didn’t have any more azaleas, but it was covered in lupine.

Field of Lupine

And, once again, I had to pause long enough to take a closer look.

Closeup of Lupine

Apparently my Apple Watch didn’t appreciate my stopping to take pictures and repeatedly asked me if I wanted to stop timing my walk.  I ignored it and pushed the dismiss tab so it would at least add the mileage to my total.

I was sure my Fitness app would warn me that my Walking Pace was trending down later, but that didn’t stop me from taking another shot of this beautiful Oregon Iris further along the trail.

Oregon Iris

I’ve been trying to increase my walking pace at the YMCA, including jogging a lap, to get in shape for your upcoming trip to Colorado and a summer hiking on Mt. Rainier, but, outside, I still break for snapshots of Nature’s beauty.  

Once I hit 80, I realized it’s more important to enjoy the moment than it is to prepare for the future. I probably should have realized it much sooner.


And This Is Why I Still Carry My Camera

I’m not sure what it takes to make a great photo, but I’m sure that having a good subject helps.  I couldn’t have asked for a better subject than this male Hooded Merganser, who seemed to be showing his best stuff to nearby females. Equally important, he seemed totally unaware of the old guy with the camera.

Even when they don’t seem particularly frightened, Hooded Mergansers will turn their back to you and quietly paddle away, perhaps occasionally glancing back to make sure you’re not pursing them.  I thought this little guy was going to bump into me, though.  He gave me a string of poses that a model would have been proud of.

If I had ever fulfilled an early ambition of carving birds, this series of photos would have served as the perfect guide.

Why Am I Carrying This Camera?

Since I bought my new Canon EOS R5 I carry it whenever we walk Owens Beach.  All too often, though, I find myself questioning why I bother to carry it.  When I’ve walked a ways and haven’t seen anything that interests me, I start taking pictures I wouldn’t normally take.

For example, the only reason I took this shot of an immature Ring-Billed (I think) is that I wanted to see how well the camera would freeze action on a cloudy day.  

I’ll have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the sharpness of the shot.

After fifteen minutes of walking without sighting a single bird, I finally took a shot of a fellow traveler.  The boat was so far out that I could barely see it, and I had to crop the shot considerably to focus on the boat, but, again, I was pleasantly surprised by the crispness of the photo.

This Double-Crested Cormorant wasn’t quite as far out, but the photo confirmed that it was the bird that I thought it was but couldn’t be sure without blowing up the image.

I couldn’t identify this bird, either, because it, too, was a ways out and there was very little color in the low light, but it’s obviously just a female Goldeneye when cropped and colors adjusted in Photoshop.

Still, none of these shots would justify the bother of carrying the camera. If I hadn’t taken it, though,  I wouldn’t have had it when I observed a small flock of Hooded Mergansers in the Marina where we turned around.

And this was the worst shot I took there.