Rhododendrons and Redwoods 1: Lady Bird Johnson Grove

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A few weeks ago, early one morning, I ran into a professional photography from Oregon. He had driven down into the Del Norte Redwoods to photography the rhododendrons, then in full bloom. He asked me if I was there to get the shot, by which he presumably meant, that perfect rhododendron shot with a plant covered in blossoms right besides an immense redwoods, with rows of redwoods in the background draped in a thick blue fog. Occasionally, you will see that shot on a postcard or a website. However, it’s not a shot one is likely to ever find in reality. Rhododendrons bloom very sparsely in the thick, light-starved redwood forest; and worse, where they do bloom, they’re never in the right place, beside that giant redwood draped in fog. Instead, they bloom high off the ground, away from the big redwoods, often in the least attractive places. As a photographer, I feel I have as good a chance of getting that perfect rhododendron shot as I do of getting the perfect Sasquatch shot.

Nonetheless, every May scores of photographers venture into the redwood forests of northern California in search of the rhododendron-in-the-redwoods shot. I made my first attempt at this patently quixotic venture a few weeks ago in Lady Bird Johnson Grove. The following are some of the uninspiring results:

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I had a bit more luck just up the road from Lady Bird Johnson Grove. Rhododendrons do better in areas with more light, and in the redwoods, this means in clearings. A road is a clearing of sorts. So if you’re looking for rhododendrons in a redwood forest, stick to roads venturing through redwood forests. Here’s some shots from along Bald Hills Road about a half a mile from Lady Bird Johnson grove:

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