ARTICLE 5 – Batteries/ Poor Exposure/ Shutter

In our last article we discussed the main shutter designs and touched on a couple of methods which would suggest movement or increase sharpness in your photographs. Other areas in your photography which are shutter related are, proper exposure due to sufficient battery power; (knowing how to purchase the appropriate battery  for your camera).  Today’s cameras are un-questionably heavily automated and have a tendency to consume a great deal of power.  They are expected to advance and rewind film, control exposure and metering systems, fire built in electronic flash systems, perform focus and zooming techniques, and open and close the shutter system.  This places a tremendous drain on power sources of even the best available batteries on the market.  However, there are ways of extending battery life such as, removing the batteries from your camera and placing them in the fridge when not in use; carrying a spare set in your camera bag and  alternating them with  every few rolls of film exposed; purchasing good brand name batteries that have a capacity for heavy drain.   Most batteries today come with a shelf life of approximately five years, and my recommendation to you would be to purchase your batteries at a store which you know has a fast turn around time, regarding quick inventory replacement,  ensuring their  freshness.

Recently a student asked me to review several slides for evaluation; he couldn’t understand how he had made such mistakes regarding exposure.  After several tests, it turned out that his camera-(one that contained numerous automatic features), had drained the battery to such an extent that it no longer could fire the shutter at the indicated speed.   The shutter system in this particular camera  was  battery assisted and failed when peak performance levels were required.  If you have ever received prints/slides back from the lab that are too light or dark, this might suggest  one reason  they have an under/over exposed appearance to them.  If you are purchasing a new camera, it would be wise to select a product that contains a manually operated override shutter system to ensure consistency of results when your battery is failing.  This brings us to the different types of batteries on the market.  Most camera stores stock batteries such as alkaline, silver oxide, lithium, nickel methyl hydrate.  The simplest way on deciding which is best for your camera is to consult your owner’s manual.  There, you will find a wealth of information, clearly detailing all the camera functions and controls.   I have used lithium, alkaline and silver batteries in cold weather, and found all batteries fail when temperatures drop below -30 degrees Celsius.  Regarding cold weather image creation; certain camera manufacturers produce anti-cold battery packs for higher end model cameras’, which are designed to store the batteries in your shirt pocket during extreme temperatures. A long wire attached to the battery clip gives a photographer a comfortable amount of distance to manoeuvre around the camera while the batteries remain under winter attire.   These anti-cold packs are fairly expensive considering they are usually only plastic clips holding anywhere from 1-4 battery’s, and for this reason I have  never elected to invest in one.  During a workshop last winter I came prepared to a location with 2 back up sets of fresh batteries only to have both of them fail within 30 minutes of photography-(they were installed in the camera at -29 degrees Celsius excluding wind chill). The camera body itself and tripod also attracts cold temperatures even more so and will unfortunately destroy the most hardiest cells on the market.

On another note, many people when loading their new batteries have a tendency to handle them with bare fingers; this transfers oil from their fingertips onto the surface of the battery.  This will add an extra load to the contacts in the battery chamber resulting in faster deterioration of the energy cell.   The solution to this problem is to use a lint free cloth such as a piece of lens cleaning tissue, and place the battery in it during instalment.   Before placing a fresh battery in it’s compartment, a good rule-of-thumb is to take an eraser, usually the one situated on the end of a pencil,  and gently rotate it over the contacts to remove any build up of residue that may have accumulated since your last installation.  If you do not produce photographs or transparencies regularly like an acquaintance of mine, who keeps the same roll of 36 exposure film in her camera for approximately “one year”, you may be curious to know how strong your battery is before  continue photographing 11 months later!  The way to determine this is to use the battery test button located on your camera.  Many cameras’ include this feature.  If your camera does not contain a test feature, you could evaluate your battery by comparing recently produced negatives/slides  in comparison to those  made months before, checking the densities of both rolls.   If you notice a marked difference in colour, contrast  and density, then one can assume that something is amiss.  If this is the case, the first and least expensive route is having  your battery inspected at your local camera store.   A simple replacement battery will ensure consistency of results and bring many memorable and predictable photographic treasures to you for years to come.


With Good Wishes………Jeff Ryan Photography/Ryan Studio, Ottawa, 2017.


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