Without power or memory cards, you’ve got an ugly necklace

As a rookie news photographer, my nightmares would take on this form:

I’d be some place where there is “breaking news” and I’d have all my gear, be at the right place with all hell breaking loose.

I reach into my bag and I realize I left my film in the trunk of my car.

Recently I was out at ArtWalk, Riverside’s once-a-month event where galleries downtown open their doors to artists’ work.

I had to get out with my camera and shake off the cobwebs.

I had my Speedlights, lights ands and radio slaves.

After setting up and loading AA batteries into the Speedlights, I discovered the batteries in the pack of AAs were all dead.

Every single one of them. So much for reliability and the Energizer bunny.

If there’s a lesson to take from this: even batteries that are supposedly new can go bad.

It’s probably a good idea to keep new batteries in the refrigerator and always load the batteries into your flash right before you use them.

Buying a $5 battery tester is also a good idea for every digital photographer.

Fortunately for me, this was not a paying gig and I was merely playing, so I shot with available light.

Exposure was roughly 1/60 f2 at 1600. Not quite bright enough to freeze some of the motion, but it was passable.

Repeat after me, “Without batteries and memory cards, all you have around your neck is an ugly necklace.”

If you have similar war stories about the one that got away, I’d love to hear about it.

12 thoughts on “Without power or memory cards, you’ve got an ugly necklace”

  1. Paul, I didn’t know you were a “squid!”
    Remind me to buy you a cold beer when we meet.

    I couldn’t have explained it any better than that. It’s too bad battery manufacturers don’t disclose optimum conditions that you should store your battery. “Cool” and dry place is about as specific as they get, isn’t it?

    I knew the science behind it but you nailed the explanation.

  2. Hi Pete and Stefan,

    Let me unleash my former self for a minute, then I’ll crawl back in. I was an electrician in the Navy and for 2 years after I got out.

    To create the electricity, the battery requires a chemical reaction. Although you are not using the batteries, the chemical reaction continues until the supply of fuel is exhausted. Heat plays a big factor in how fast the batteries will go dead. If you leave your batteries in the car during summer, they will not last long as the heat increases the speed at which the internal fuel is used. Heat increases the electrolytic process.

    So the opposite is true When you store them in the fridge or freezer, you slow the chemical process and the batteries will be much more fresh when you go to use them. Their fuel isn’t spent, and they will last longer. Just pull them out and let them warm up to room temp for at least 12 hours before using them.

    Now back to my regulary schedule program of shooting pictures.

  3. Stefan,
    Perhaps I should explain. If you live in a hot climate, heat will ruin the shelf life.

    Most battery manufacturers don’t tell you what the best temperatures are to store batteries. They say cool.

    But where I live, in Southern California, sometimes the inside of the house can get really hot, upwards of 90 ℉ when the air-conditioning isn’t running.

  4. Post that checklist Peter! I don’t think its dementia but instead the distractions of working from home/multi-tasking.

  5. Paul,
    Thanks so much for sharing. I had a feeling there would be stories out there like yours.

    Reminds me of the time when I was shooting a golf tournament using a digital camera. I was in position, batteries were A-okay and I was just waiting for the putt. I forgot to check the frame counter. Just as I fired, it was the last frame. I couldn’t get a sequence of jubilation, there wasn’t time to swap memory cards. Luckily, I keyed in on the face right after the putt and was able to shoot just one frame.

    In that instance I really lucked out.

    What good is having 400 exposures on a memory card if you don’t keep tabs on how many you have left?

  6. @Bobee,
    Thanks for taking the time to comment. It’s funny how easily it is to forget to check simple things like batteries and memory cards. When you do something daily like I was shooting daily at the newspaper, it was never an issue. Now, I have to have a checklist–probably a sign of dementia setting in. 😉

  7. Oh how I can relate to this post.

    I ran out of my house to shoot a structure fire down the block. When I got down there and shot a “roll” of film, I realized I had no film in my camera.

    Luckily, my roomate Steve was there as well and I convinced him to grab me a few rolls of Fujicolor 800. He brought me a whole pack!

    But I missed the telling image: the Fraternity president on his knees begging for help as his frat house was in flames behind him.

    Two lessons I learned: reload your cameras immediately after cleaning them, and set the preferences so the camera won’t fire unless film is in.

    Thanks Pete for the reminders.

  8. What a catching title.
    Needless to say, you are really a pro. You make use of what is available and grab the challenge. The available lights actually highlights the color of the red belly dance costume.No complaints about the photos here.

  9. Thanks DeeAnn. What can I say? I like control. If I had the use of my Speedlights, I would have more options. I could have stepped back and used longer lenses. Available limited me to my 50mm.

  10. I think these photos are great Peter. Using available light does have its rewards, more documentary and spontaneous looking photos.

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