Red-breasted Merganser – At 220mm

Red-breasted Merganser Red-breasted Merganser – Nikon D200, handheld, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 160, Nikkor 70-300mm VR at 220mm, natural light

You don’t always need to have long focal lengths to get close up images, this Red-breasted Merganser image was taken with a moderately priced Nikkor 70-300mm VR at only 220mm and it is practically full frame.

How did I get an image of a wild Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) from so close?

Patience. I approached the bird very slowly from the water by sitting on my legs and shuffling them forward and keeping my appearance as small as possible.

Observation. Watching the bird carefully for any sign or alarm or distress. If I noticed the bird show either sign I stopped dead still and waited. When I could see clearly that the bird was relaxed I would inch forward.

The series I have of this bird numbers over 100, it was so relaxed it preened while I photographed it.

It also helped that the bird was in a location where it had become habituated to humans on the beach, that can help with shorter focal lengths.

Then I retreated as slowly and as carefully as I approached it without disturbing the merganser. That felt awesome.


Taken at Fort De Soto County Park’s north beach in Florida.


  1. Susan May 4, 2012 at 9:56 pm

    Excellent photo, you’re care for the bird and patience really paid off. Wish more people would take such care when approaching wildlife.

    • Mia McPherson May 7, 2012 at 6:47 pm

      Susan, I wish that more people who be careful around wildlife too. Thank you for your comment.

  2. Laurence Butler May 4, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    Can’t argue with those results. Outstanding!

    • Mia McPherson May 7, 2012 at 6:47 pm

      Laurence, thanks so much for your comment on this Red-breasted Merganser image

  3. Bob Zeller May 4, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Wonderful photograph, and a great descriptive narrative to go along with it. 🙂

  4. Carol Mattingly May 4, 2012 at 8:41 am

    I loved reading this post about how you got this shot with a 300mm. Fantastic. Love the light on this. It’s just enough to make you want to look more closely. Carol

    • Mia McPherson May 7, 2012 at 6:44 pm

      Thank you Carol, the light was beautiful that day.

  5. Stu May 4, 2012 at 8:00 am

    Great shot Mia. And thanks for the explanation of how you get so close to the birds.

    • Mia McPherson May 7, 2012 at 5:05 am

      A pleasure Stu and thank you for your comment.

  6. Steve Creek May 4, 2012 at 4:48 am

    A great capture Mia!

  7. Julie Brown May 4, 2012 at 4:06 am

    Great shot, Mia! Excellent feather detail, and the bird stands out nicely from the background. You must have just posted this, because I had been looking at the willets and the Lark Sparrow. I was thinking of how nice it is to see these beautiful photos while I am longing to go birding today. But, I have to go to work, so maybe this afternoon, although it is supposed to storm. 🙁

    • Mia McPherson May 7, 2012 at 5:02 am

      Julie, Thanks so much for your comment on the Merganser.

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