I had read good things about SANYO’s eneloop Ni-MH rechargeable batteries when it comes to powering personal speedlites so I decided to pick up a set and run them through the paces.  All I can say is wow.

They outperformed my expectations and still leave me almost speechless.  Unlike conventional rechargeable batteries, eneloop promises to have their charge right out of the package and this they did, full power right out of the package.  They promised a faster recycle time then any of my previous batteries and boy did they deliver here as well.  I’ve been popping away with my speedlites for 2 days now and finally ran out my first set.  Into the charger they went and were back at full power within a couple of hours.  Wow.

I can not say enough about this technology.  They don’t cost much at all to pick up and they will last for over 1500 charges.  My set of 8 AA’s, 4 AAA’s and Charger cost me around $25.  You really can’t beat this when you count up all the AA’s you will run through in a single speedlite session.

Bravo eneloop!  Bravo SANYO!

[click to enlarge]


In response to an e-mail I received, I put together this little document on Keeping Your Camera Gear Clean at Burning Man, Black Rock City, NV.  The question was in reference to the Canon 5D Mark II but these tips apply to any camera or photographer wishing to capture excellent images with as little stress about gear as possible.  Questions?  Ask below.  Thanks for reading.

The 5D Mark II is awesome in my opinion.  Fantastic gear, worth taking to the playa and worth taking care of.  In 2009, I took my 5D Mark II to Burning Man while my wife took her 5D.  Both performed spectacularly.

Black Rock City, NV

dust dust everywhere ...

Firstly, I tell everyone, do not take anything to the playa that you can not afford to lose or have trashed.  This goes for technical gear as well as camping gear and your vehicle.  Burning Man ruins everything.  That said, I have been 10 out of the last 11 years and haven’t had any horrible issues.  The playa will get into everything, assume that, and take precautions to minimize any damage that may occur.  If you have one camera body and, say, a wedding booked for when you come home from Burning Man, maybe taking a different camera to the playa would be a good idea.  Buy a cheap one instead of risking a couple thousand dollars and jeopardizing your future client shoots.

My Burning Man Photography Style goes something like this..

#1 Pelican Case.  We have one for our laptop and another for our camera gear.  They are the best way to keep the playa out, as long as you keep them closed.  The playa is in the air no matter what, even when you can’t see it.  Whenever we open our cases, we do what we need and close them up fast.  We do this in our RV (or do it in your car if you can).  Tents are more playafied than closed vehicles.  These cases aren’t opened very often because of #2 and #3.

#2 Large Freezer Zip Lock Bags.  Bring a bunch.  Sized to fit your camera with your lens of choice or biggest lens.  You also want to be able to put your hand inside to pull your camera out or work your camera (#4).  Make sure they have a heavy duty zipper (not the cheap ones) and replace throughout the week as they get dirty or ripped.  I keep my camera zipped in a bag all week that is inside of a soft bag.  I do not store my camera in my Pelican Case once on the playa.  Keep it at the ready at all times.

Embracing The Storm

Embracing The Storm

#3 Choose your Lens.  The biggest problem with digital SLRs out there is when you change your lens out.  So I didn’t last year.  I stuck with my 24-105 and didn’t even put on my 70-200 even though I wanted to.  Dust can get into the lens mechanism or into the body if you switch out your lens.  If you do want to switch your lens, do it in the best, closed shelter you can and do it quickly.  I think it is best to use the lens you like the most, and adjust your shooting accordingly.  Long shots to close ups work on everything out there so change your position instead of your lens.  If you want to use different lenses, minimize your swapping.  It is also important to keep your lens clean.  Take a bottle of photographic lens cleaner and an appropriate cleaning cloth or 4.  Clean your lens regularly or you will be sorry in post production.

#4 Shoot Through the Bag.  This can be helpful.  For a couple of days last year I cut a corner out of my ziplock bag and used gaff tape to hold the lens through the hole.  My gallon bags weren’t big enough to work the way I wanted this to but it is worth a try.  Gaff tape is essential for this.  You do end up with a bit of a mess once the bag is compromised (playafied inside) and you need to make a new one.  Worth a try at home to see if you can work your controls.  Again, zip up the back when you aren’t shooting.

#5 Watch Out / Anticipate.  Watch the weather and anticipate your shots.  Dust storm images are amazing.  Find your spot, back to the wind when not shooting, gear in and out of your ziplock and your soft bag quickly.  Dust storms can also hit you unexpectedly so always carry protection and have it close at hand.

Playa Pack

Playa Pack

#6 Have Fun.  Worrying about your gear isn’t going to get you the great shots of Burning Man.  Once you decide to take your gear, assume dust storms all day for a week and go out and shoot no matter what.  The weather changes quickly and waiting at camp for the weather to change won’t have you out there when it does.  Shoot shoot shoot and enjoy.

#7 Backups and Storage.  Back up your cards to an external drive daily.  Keep your backup drive in a pelican case when not in use.  We used our laptop and downloaded cards 3 times over the course of our 10 days on the playa.

#8 Batteries, Cards and Power.  We take an RV so we have onsite electrical for recharging batteries.  Take either enough batteries and cards for the week or have a way to charge batteries and clear cards.  Charging takes time so be sure to charge whenever you are running your generator.  The 5D Mark II takes massive RAW image files.  I had a light shooting year in 2009 and still managed to shoot 40 gigs worth of images.  Don’t plan on doing any editing onsite, it only opens up your gear to the elements.

#9 Clean Your Gear.  I have to admit that I didn’t do this when I got home this year as the 5D Mark II is well sealed against dust and moisture.  The outside of the body may never get clean but the insides are still pristine due to my care and choice of shooting a single lens.  I was able to go right back into my commercial shooting on return.  I do recommend getting your camera cleaned regularly.  It makes good sense.

East Black Rock

East Black Rock

#10 Ask permission.  OK.  So this isn’t exactly about keeping your camera gear clean, but it is the most important rule for photographers at Burning Man.  Respect your subjects.  Over the years I have developed a short hand where I can quickly get acknowledgment to photograph a subject without speaking.  It is in your eyes and body language.  Do not interfere with anyone’s experience when shooting.  Stopping somebody in the middle of what they are doing to ask to photograph them should be avoided at all costs.  Learn to ask quickly with your eyes and respect the response.  If you are at all unsure, don’t take the shot.  There are many more shots out there waiting for you.  If they don’t want you to shoot them, sit and watch for a bit without shooting.  Enjoy what you are seeing and take your mental pictures before you move on.  Again, respect your subjects.

I hope this helps you take beautiful photographs in Black Rock City with as little stress about your gear as possible.

I plan to expand upon this document so please feel free to ask any additional questions below.

Happy Shooting and Best wishes.  -Hovering.

My Burning Man Images can be found by starting here:


I just returned from MacForce with a nearly new laptop.  I love Apple.

10 days ago our MacBook Pro began making bad noises.  I mean churning, grinding, winding noises.  Nothing you want to hear coming from an essential machine we use to run our business.  Googling the symptoms gave us “hard drive” or “one of the two fans” as possible culprits.  We bought AppleCare with this machine 2 1/2 years ago and dropped her off at our local MacForce, hoping for life saving actions to salvage whatever possible.  Well, Apple did better than that.  The machine just returned from the shop with a heady list of replacements, all at no extra cost to us.  $0.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.

AppleCare..  worth its weight in gold today.  Seriously.

The Apple Repair Depot sent our machine back with the following parts being replaced:

  • Logic Board
  • Thermal Module
  • Optical Drive (SuperDrive)
  • 2 Flex Cables
  • Right Fan Assembly
  • Left Fan Assembly
  • Airport Extreme Card
  • Input/Output Board

With 6 months left on our AppleCare, we basically have a new machine.  Thanks Apple.  We will continue to be excellent customers.

MacBook Pro.  Have I told you lately that I love you?

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