National Parks,  Photo Stories

Photo Story: Female Red-breasted Merganser Preening on the Madison River

Whenever I enter and leave the West Entrance of Yellowstone National Park, I make sure I take a short detour and drive along Riverside Drive.  Riverside Drive is a short road that follows along the Madison River.

Female Red Breasted Merganser

Female Red-breasted Merganser

I’ve had some good luck for bird, wildlife, and landscape photography on this short stretch of road that parallels the West Entrance Road.  I’ve photographed Bald Eagles, Elk (up close), and ducks along this road.  This is also a great spot to stop for landscapes especially at sunrise.

This was our first day in the park and we were heading to West Yellowstone to check in to the hotel.  Although we were tired from getting up early to photograph landscapes in Grand Teton National Park, we decided on a quick diversion down Riverside Drive to check for wildlife.

We were in luck.  This afternoon we found a female Red-breasted Merganser preening itself in the strong waters of the Madison River.  We photographed the bird for about 10 minutes as it floated down the river and then worked its way back upstream.  The Merganser barely noticed our presence and kept on floating and preening itself.

Female Red Breasted Merganser Preening herself on the Madison River

Details (Top Photo)

Camera:  Canon 5d Mark III
Lens:   Canon 500mm f/4 IS + 1.4x Teleconverter III 
Focal Length: 700mm
ISO:  320
Aperture:   f/7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/800 of a second
Exposure Compensation: +1/3
Lighting: Partly Cloudy Afternoon


  • Cropped the photo in Lightroom 5.
  • Added detail to the duck using the Detail Extractor Filter in Color Efex Pro 4
  • Selectively lightened and darkened the image using Viveza 2 from Google.
  • Added Contrast to the photo using the Flower III filter in Topaz Clarity.
  • Removed the hot spots from the water using the Healing Brush tool in Photoshop CC 2014.
  • Selectively removed noise from the photo using Topaz DeNoise and a layer mask in Photoshop CC 2014.
  • Selectively sharpened the image using the Unsharp Mask filter and copying the layer mask from the prior step and inverting it.

How to Copy a Layer Mask in Photoshop

  • On a Mac, hold down the Option Key and drag the mask to the new layer.  Press Command + I to invert the mask.
  • On a PC, hold down the Alt Key and drag the mask to the new layer and press Ctrl + I to invert the mask.

Written by Martin Belan

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