The calcium calmodulin dependent kinase (CaMKII) is important for long-term potentiation at dendritic spines. Photo-activatable GFP (PaGFP) - CaMKII fusions were used to map CaMKII movements between and within spines in dissociated hippocampal neurons. Photo-activated PaGFP (GFP*) generated in the shaft spread uniformly, but was retained for about 1 s in spines. The differential localization of GFP*-CaMKII isoforms was visualized with hundred nanometer precision frame to frame using de-noising algorithms. GFP*-CaMKII? localized to the tips of mushroom spines. The spatiotemporal profiles of native and kinase defective GFP*-CaMKII?, differed markedly from GFP*-CaMKII? and mutant GFP*-CaMKII? lacking the association domain. CaMKII? bound to cortical actin in the dendrite and the stable actin network in spine bodies. Glutamate produced a transiently localized GFP*-CaMKII? fraction and a soluble GFP*-CaMKII? fraction in spine bodies. Single molecule simulations of the interplay between diffusion and biochemistry of GFP* species were guided by the spatiotemporal maps and set limits on binding parameters. They highlighted the role of spine morphology in modulating bound CaMKII lifetimes. The long residence times of GFP*-CaMKII? relative to GFP*-CaMKII? followed as consequence of more binding sites on the actin cytoskeleton than the post-synaptic density. These factors combined to retain CaMKII for tens of seconds, sufficient to outlast the calcium transients triggered by glutamate, without invoking complex biochemistry.