When Your Camera Battery Dies

Your battery will inevitably die at the very worst time, right? Today is my son’s 4th birthday. I did not realize till we arrived at the shopping center for his choice of pizza and ice cream cake that the battery was dead. And no, I did not tell my wife at first. Things always seem to work out, so I figured I would just not touch the camera and wait till just before I wanted to (hopefully) resurrect it for a few shots, and see what happened.

Now, I try to play it safe with my camera batteries. Having two batteries is a must for me, and with my shooting style and load, I have never even gone through one battery in one day of heavy shooting, so I figure two is twice as much as I have ever needed. The bigger problem is knowing which day my battery is finally going to die. That day was today.

First, a little history: the last time my battery died was four years ago on this very day, at my son’s birth. I took both batteries to the hospital, one in camera and one back up. When the time came for my wife to go down for surgery, knowing my battery was low-ish, I played it safe and switched batteries (because I knew I always charge a battery as soon as it is drained, so I my back up is fully charged). When I made it to surgery, I found out my battery was dead. It defies all the laws of how I function, but it did happen.

That time, all I did was switch the focus to manual and camera mode to manual. Doing a little manual focus and watching the meter helped me squeeze out about five shots before it died again. That was enough to capture my son’s birth. Job well done, though I sure would have preferred to have had a fully charged battery with me.

This time was different. I have a Nikon lens on a Canon body, so the camera is not even thinking about focusing for me anyway. So, conserving what I would guess is the largest drain of energy in the actual taking of a photo is already not an option. I usually shoot in manual mode these days too, so saving what trickle of energy is used to compute camera settings is also not an option. And on top of all that, shooting all-manual will probably have drained that battery to the very edge already.

Here was my multi-method plan. One, I figure there is a possibility the camera thinks it is totally drained, but if “reset” somehow, could find the power for a couple clicks. For this, I plan on switching the camera off and on, in addition to removing the battery and replacing it. Two, I know batteries drain faster when cold, so it only makes sense that warming it up might give me a little more oomph. And three, assuming one of the above two works and the camera will turn on, I will switch my camera to the first click on the ON switch, and not the second (a Canon thing), which I think turns on the wheel on the back of the camera, which for this situation just seemed like a good idea because I want the camera thinking and doing a little as possible.

So, there I sat, at the end of the table in the ice cream shop, breathing into my hands to everyone’s bewilderment. I did all of the above, and the camera turned back on. I always focused first before touching the shutter button telling the meter to turn on, and after I set everything for that first shot, I did not adjust anything. That might make the camera think a little less, but really, I think it felt like, “if I am thinking less, the meter must be using less battery, right?” Regardless, it worked.

And this time, I did not squeeze out five photos. I count thirty-four. That’s 34, if you prefer the numerals. The battery ran for so long, I just stopped worrying. I even switched my settings around once! Extravagant? I know, right! Ok, extravagant would be using the LCD screen. Oh, I have not said so, but if you have battery issues, do not under any circumstances turn on that screen: the LCD is a convicted drained-battery murderer. Look it up.

Now, which of the above measures made the difference? Unfortunately, I did all three at the same time, so I cannot say for sure. I honestly do not think the breathing thing made any difference, though I would not be surprised if it would make a difference if the weather was cold or even if the room was air-conditioned and the camera was cold to the touch. Rather…

I would guess the biggest contributor to my thirty-four post-resurrection photos was turning the camera off, then removing and replacing the battery. That gives the camera a chance to throw out its prejudices against that low-life battery and to meet it again, fresh, as if it were a new face with no history. That makes sense, right?

Of course, maybe that is all a bunch of hogwash, and I actually did breathe a little breath of life into it.

Cooper Strange Written by: