On Batteries

ABC: Always Be Charging


Batteries are my personal nemesis that I’ve learned to work with over time, and I think that most underwater photographers also have a love-hate relationship with them.

My problems with most batteries:

  • Chargers take up space in your bags
  • Different types of devices have different batteries
  • Battery chargers usually come with a power cube of some kind
  • Some chargers have “fixed” plugs that don’t let them pack nicely
  • Batteries are heavy
  • Batteries have to be in your carry-on baggage
  • Batteries usually can’t be seen through on x-ray because they contain metal
  • Batteries heat up when they charge
  • Hot batteries in a sealed device create vacuum and offgas issues
  • Batteries will last for 2.5 dives on average and that third dive might run out
  • You can’t take photos with a camera that has dead batteries
  • You can take photos if one or two of your 4 light sources dies

Out of all these considerations, I have this strategy for batteries:

  • Have enough batteries for 1.5 days of photography
  • Minimize the amount of chargers that I have to take with me by standardizing on just a couple of battery types
  • Whenever possible, have chargers that plug into USB
  • Always Be Charging: batteries on the charger are one of the first things that I do after every dive
  • Take an extra set of batteries on the dive boat
  • Have 2 containers next to the charging table: one for empty batteries and one for full batteries
  • Whenever I’m not taking photos (hunting for subjects or waiting or on the boat), I shut off my camera, strobes, and focus light
  • I try to resist the urge to look at photos on the boat unless we’re headed back to the dock although sometimes I fail at resisting
  • I carry 2 spot-beam dive torches for tech-diver redundancy and to use as a macro torch
  • I have redundancy between my strobes, focus/video torch, and handheld dive torch so I don’t really need a full set of extras for strobes
  • If you’re diving with a guide, you will take more photos and will use batteries faster
  • If you’re doing 3 dives plus an early morning or night dive, you’ll need more batteries because they won’t charge fast enough
  • Chargers can go in checked baggage

And finally, my dive trip packing list:

  • 4x 18650 (2 handheld dive torches plus maybe the ScubaLamp MS-30 snoot torch)
  • 2x 26650 (1 focus torch)
  • 1x 14500 (dive computer)
  • Nitecore 4-bay charger for 18650, 26650, 14500 (it has a straight cord with no power cube) (in checked bag)
  • 12x Eneloop Pro (2 strobes and each holds 4 batteries, I don’t take a full set for 2 days because it’s just too many to carry) [See Note Below]
  • 2 Eneloop 4-bay chargers with folding US plug (in checked bag)
  • 2x Camera Battery (either TG5/LI92B or G9/DMW-BLF19)
  • USB-powered single-bay charger for camera battery
  • 2-bay USB charger for phone, tablet, batteries
  • Waterproof bag or box for the boat: I have a dive mask box that seals and is the perfect size for batteries and my phone
  • Extra bag for batteries in my carry-on so I can can just put them into an x-ray tray at airport security



See You Underwater



[1] You’re maybe not supposed to put Eneloop batteries into a sealed device: opinions vary on this.  You can read more at WetPixel.  I hedge my bets by never ever using batteries right off the charger that are warm.  This is why I get them on the charger early so that they have time to cool.

To Tray or Not to Tray

A friend of mine messaged me the other day:

Checking with you, I’ve just bought a TG-5. So can I start shooting UW already or I need to add on any “lens”?

You have housing?

Yes, I’m on Ikelite housing.

For macro, you’ll need a light source. Also for wide-angle but you can also go without.

I have a video light, no budget for strobes yet. 😅

That’s ok. How do you mount it? Check out my blog post for TG5 setup here: https://underwatermacro.blog/2019/01/03/my-tg5-setup/

My housing will only reach next week, will send you a photo after I have mounted it. Also, about the tray: single handle & double handle, which is better?

Honestly, none. Best is a cold shoe mount on top of the housing. Trays are good for a couple of things. To mount light arms. For double hand holding on the housing to steady during wide videos. For a shutter trigger. For when you can’t fit your hands around the housing.

And they’re bad at some things. Having to reach further to reach the shutter. Making a wider camera that you can’t fit into spaces for macro. Getting hung up on your dive gear.

My G9 has left and right handles because it’s a bigger camera.

My TG5 has a handle on the right side because it holds a trigger. Makes it easier to fire a shot without twisting the camera. I took off the left side handle because I don’t need it to mount lights and because it makes the camera wider. If I need more lights and versatility, I’ll use the G9.

TG5 is my light travel and “exploration” camera. I want it lightweight and small.

The trick is: know where you are good and where you have to trouble and optimize the camera for your style. I will tell you this. A good photographer with a TG5 and a handheld dive torch can always do better than a poor photographer with an expensive camera with all sorts of shit hanging on it.

One thing that you do want to add is a lanyard. You can see mine in the photos. I don’t like how long it is when it’s clipped off. I just clip it when I’m descending and ascending. During a dive I undo the short clip and hand-carry it by grabbing the handle with my right hand. I either put it along the right side of my body, in my hands crossed in front of me like a tech diver, or underneath my crotch. 😁

Depends on what I’m doing at the time: hunting, traveling, waiting, etc.

Noted. Will read through your blog & digest as much as I could. Thank you so much for your advice.

See you underwater!!!