Battery Tales: A Photographer’s Best Friend, Worst Enemy

The BeachTek DXA-SLR device allows me to use standard professional XLR audio connectors with my Canon EOS Mark IV camera, something that's vital in lots of situations. But being prepared for battery woes is part of the bargain. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

The BeachTek DXA-SLR device allows me to use standard professional XLR audio connectors with my Canon EOS Mark IV camera, something that's vital in lots of situations. But being prepared for battery woes is part of the bargain. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

A TRUE STORY

As modern photographers using digital equipment, we live our lives dependent upon battery power: in your camera, in your strobe, in most of the essential accessories that we cart around. So having juice to run everything is not just important, it’s downright vital.

I was reminded of this fundamental truth late the other night, preparing to videotape a press conference with the head coach and players of the New Orleans Saints NFL football team following their win against the Detroit Lions. It was late—after 11 p.m.—when the press conference was to start, and I had just hurried down from our photo workroom where we were putting together the photo report from the game.

I shoot these quick little pressers with video using my beautiful Canon EOS Mark IV camera. It shoots incredible stills PLUS 1920 x 1080 HD video, but the audio capabilities on the camera are very limited—just a single audio mini jack. I need full XLR capability in this situation in order to take advantage of the mult box setup( which gives you the audio from the podium), so I have a great little BeachTek DXA-SLR device, which takes my one audio mini port and allows me to convert that to a dual XLR stereo device. The ONE potentially fatal problem with this accessory is the power source. It’s a single 9-volt battery, and the switch on the device is very easy to accidentally leave on, or switch on with the inadvertent brush of your arm.

In this case, I got down to the press conference roomwith only about 60 seconds to spare, and noticed that the ON/OFF switch had somehow been switched over to ‘ON’. With this device, switching over to ON means the unit is drawing power continuously, whether anything is running through it or not; my device was as dead as a doornail!

If you forget to turn this little switch off on the BeachTek device when you finish recording video, or if you brush into it and it turns on (really easy to do), the battery will drain right down to nothing. You, of course, won't discover this until the next time you pull it out to use it. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

If you forget to turn this little switch off on the BeachTek device when you finish recording video, or if you brush into it and it turns on (really easy to do), the battery will drain right down to nothing. You, of course, won't discover this until the next time you pull it out to use it. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

Luckily, this wasn’t my first time out on the dance floor with this accessory. With seconds to spare, I frantically rummaged through my fanny pack and PRESTO!—pulled out a SPARE 9-volt battery. (Let’s just say I had been victimized before.)

I changed out the battery and was able to complete the shoot—the only thing that matters in the long run, no?

I’ve now added a small piece of gaffer’s tape over the ON/OFF switch. Hopefully, this will cut down on the unwanted battery drains in the future.

My Shoot brand digital remote cable release/intervalometer has a similar battery situation. There’s no ON/OFF switch on this otherwise wonderful and cheap knockoff of the ridiculously expensive Canon original. For this gear, I’ve trained myself to always turn one of the two AAA batteries around in the case when I’m not using it, effectively shutting it off.

My Shoot brand intervalometer and timer, a cheap but dependable knockoff of the original Canon product, has no ON/OFF switch. I turn one of the two AAA batteries around in its case to turn it on and off. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

My Shoot brand intervalometer and timer, a cheap but dependable knockoff of the original Canon product, has no ON/OFF switch. I turn one of the two AAA batteries around in its case to turn it on and off. (Copyright 2011 / Andrew Boyd)

So the takeaway on this little story is simple: plan for the worst (extra batteries, always!) and hope for the best. Expect bad things to happen, be prepared for when they do, and you won’t come back empty-handed.
Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Or subscribe to our Facebook page or our Twitter feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog

Posted in: Equipment

About the Author:

Photographer, videographer and photo editor. Host and creator of The Discerning Photographer web site. Currently a Canon shooter.

1 Comment on "Battery Tales: A Photographer’s Best Friend, Worst Enemy"

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  1. Linda says:

    Hi Andrew, I feel your pain. Experience is the greatest teacher, eh? The motto, be prepared is a good one and surely is applicable in lots of parts of our lives.

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