-4-   The Spirits Keep Draining My Batteries! What Can You Recommend?

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    We hear this all the time

    The Spirits drained my Camera Battery (or some other
    piece of equipment.)   But Did They?

    In my investigations I use a Power Module which contains a large Deep Cycle battery to supply all my power needs. (12 VDC and 120VAC). Meters on it allow me to keep tabs on the battery status constantly. I can project how much charge remains and based on the load I place on it, how long the charge will last. If a spirit decided to steal some energy from the battery this would be reflected as an excessive power drain. It would not go unnoticed! Something else would have to account for the drain. Read on for a few possibilities besides spirits that might be responsible.

    It's a common statement heard often when one attempts to take a picture of something paranormal. But just how common is this and did the camera really malfunction? This report will dig into those claims and try to find a more rational explanation. First, in my time as an investigator I have never directly experienced unexpected dead batteries. I have drained quite a few but never unexpectedly. But I have been with others who have. Let's look at a few considerations before we start.

    One characteristic of most digital cameras is they have mechanical operations taking place. These require motors and solenoids that place a high current demand or surge on their battery sources. Such a load requires a battery that has the ability to maintain a steady voltage through such operations. Flash also puts a heavy demand as it charges its internal capacitor to fire the flash tube. A good battery source is essential to supply all this demand.

    Now consider the batteries themselves. Are you trying to save a nickel by using off-brand, cheap drug store batteries? Many of these are junk. They simply lack the capacity to operate a digital camera. You should use a high capacity, alkaline battery with any digital camera. Standard batteries may not have the current capacity for some camera operations. When the voltage sags too low the camera catches this even if it's only for an instant and shuts down.

    Next, even experts make mistakes. If someone makes a claim their battery died or their camera didn't work, my first question is, "Did you operate it correctly?" Recently a fellow investigator came clean with one of his "mistakes". He and another investigator saw something unusual. He was a professional photographer and had a professional grade camera with him. Both saw it and tried for a better look. He tried repeatedly but could not see it through his camera. He yelled for his friend and asked if he still saw it. He did.

    The other investigator came over to see for himself why the first guy couldn't see it through his camera. He looked at the photographer's camera and resolved the problem by removing the lens cap from the camera..... Which goes to show, even experts can make stupid mistakes, especially when trying to capture that once-in-lifetime event. So when something strange happens look first to yourself. Are you using your camera correctly? Did you remember to turn it on? Put batteries in it? A lot of malfunctions are easily explained once the excitement of the moment has passed.

    Of course that doesn't explain everything. Another issue may be the battery itself. Weak batteries account for a lot of these problems. You say you just put new batteries in, or recharged them before starting the investigation and they died when you tried to use the camera. My next question is how long ago was that? I have seen a lot of investigators who turn on their camera and carry it around as they investigate, sometimes for hours. Their reasoning is it is always ready to go should something appear. But there is a problem doing this.

    A camera turned on is constantly draining its battery. And if it is dark and the flash is also enabled the drain is increased. If your camera is in a point and shoot (automatic) mode the drain increases again since additional power is required to keep the imager fully charged and ready to take a picture.

    Now the event occurs and you need to take a picture quickly. You point the camera. It's dark and light measurements are made. The camera determines the flash should be fired at maximum intensity, placing an additional load on the battery as imager is charged to its most sensitive level. The flash is charging. And the exposure time is increased to extend the shutter speed. All this hits an already weak battery and the camera shuts down. No picture, it must be a camera malfunction.

    But is it the camera's fault or a failure on the part of the user to get the most life out of his battery? The user could extend his battery life by simply keeping the camera turned off until he is ready to take a picture. A simple step to eliminate a common source of why my camera didn't work.

    Another variation on this problem is, Later I tried my camera and it was working. "Ghosts must have been draining away my power." you say. Before calling this paranormal, consider how a battery works. It is common for a battery to recover a part of its charge when it is turned off after being discharged. So you tried to take your picture and the camera turned itself off. Later you turn it back on and it works. This is classic case of recovery charge. It may appear to be normal but consider too that this charge will quickly be depleted. Did you really see how long the charge lasts or do you just attribute it to the energy starved ghost simply moving on?

    And one more consideration. You were tramping around in the dark when it failed. Now you are back at home in a well lit environment. When you try the camera again at home less power is required since likely the flash didn't have to charge and the imager didn't need a maximum charge like it did earlier that night. So even a weak battery might handle this low-load situation.

    Battery charging itself is another issue. If your device is using rechargeable batteries "cell memory" can also cause a problem. If you constantly keep your battery charged to its full capacity it can develop a memory which limits its ability to take a full charge. It will reach full charge quickly but will also discharge quickly when placed under load. The problem is that it's never reaching its full charge, only a surface charge is being placed on it. The solution here is to not keep a full charge on your battery. Use it, run it down slowly then recharge for an extended period of time. You may be able to knock the memory out and get a more reasonable time out of what is now a true full charge.

    So far we have only addressed battery problems. Your camera or other device may also be reacting to its environment. Is it cold out? Batteries have less capacity if they are cold. Not only that, moisture may condense if temperature reaches the dew point. Moisture is also an issue with all electronics since it may cause conductivity between circuits inside the camera. Of course if this happens erratic operation of the device is almost guaranteed.

What are the chances of condensation on a day like this?

    But regardless of the cause, you are still stuck with a dead device. That is a fact that cannot be denied. But after ruling out the causes above, the dead device can provide some clues as to what happened. The important thing here is to get it checked out immediately before whatever caused the problem can correct itself. The first thing many do is change the batteries or recharge them. Don't Do That! While it may correct the problem you lose the opportunity to actually find out what caused the issue.

    As a technician, I am often asked to check the malfunctioning devices to determine what happened. You should perform the same tests I do to help isolate your problem. You will need a voltmeter and access to the battery compartment of the device to do this test. The first thing to do is measure the battery voltage with the device turned On. You may need to run the device for a while if it was previously turned off to bleed off the surface charge from the battery. The important point here is to determine if the battery can maintain the required voltage. If it begins to drop off after a few minutes, you are dealing with a surface charge condition, not a spirit draining your battery

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    Finally consider the device itself. When you turn it on, are all functions operating normally? If it has other issues that could account for battery drain. A malfunctioning device certainly can't be depended on to operate as one would expect with regard to battery life. Have your device serviced. These are just a few of many things to rule out before blaming spirits for draining the power from your battery.

    ©    May 2024 - J Brown