TheJoyOfHack

For people who like to make things

I’m currently in the last 48 hours of my first ever visit to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Just hours before setting out to see the Canyon for the first time, I realized that I couldn’t recharge my camera’s battery. I had 80% of a full charge, and four more days of vacation to go. Time to panic?

On Monday I drove through Sedona, Arizona with a fully-charged battery, taking many pictures at each stop. By early evening we reached our hotel in Tusayan, a mile from the entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park. That night I prepared my gadgets for the next day, when we were to visit the Canyon for the first time. I charged my phone, charged my laptop, and tried to charge my camera.

When I placed the camera battery in its charger, the light on the charger came on and immediately turned off. “That’s odd,” I thought. I removed the battery and placed it in again. Again, the light went on momentarily. I tried a third time, but the light never turned on again.

I could have a bad charger, or a bad battery, or both. I put the battery into the camera, and it seemed to work fine. Breathing a sigh of relief I realized that it was only my charger that was broken.

If I rationed my photography, I thought, I might be able to make it through this vacation on the 80% charge that I had left. But I didn’t want to have to worry about taking too many pictures on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and I would need a new charger anyway. So I ordered a charger and spare battery from Amazon, and they promised to have them delivered on Wednesday.

To Amazon’s credit, they delivered the charger as promised, an hour before we left for a sunset tour. In the 36 hours before I got the new charger one simple decision and one camera setting allowed me to take as many pictures as I normally would without having to worry about running out of juice even if the new charger never came.

Battery Saving Tips

There are two functions of a modern digital camera that need a lot of power. The first is the on-camera flash. Fortunately for me, I had an external flash that had its own power source: four AA batteries. Using the external flash exclusively meant that the camera battery didn’t have to throw all the light required for those backlit shots of the family with a brightly-lit canyon in the background. Also, AA batteries are easy to find at any gas station or general store.

The second function that taxes the camera’s battery is the display on the back - the monitor. On my digital SLR, by default the monitor displays the photograph just taken for 10 seconds. I had already set this to the minimum value of 4 seconds. Minimizing the amount of time that the monitor is in use can greatly improve your battery’s performance.

Morals Of The Story

  1. When you’re on the road for an important photo shoot, keep a spare, fully-charged battery. You may never need to use it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you have it.

  2. Use an external flash if at all possible - It will prolong your battery life and give you the option to try out multiple-flash photographs.

  3. Don’t waste your battery browsing through pictures on your camera if you don’t need to. Minimize the time spent using your monitor to maximize your battery life.

  4. When you’re on vacation with family, when you’re not a Pro shooting for a client, remember that it’s just a camera. The vacation can be fun even if you don’t take any pictures. You’re in a beautiful place with the most important people in your life. Enjoy yourself and make some memories that everyone will share fondly.