21 October 2014

Back in the Shutter Again


It's baaaack! My "Big Gun," my "good" camera, my Nikon D300, my best friend, is back!

After two months in surgery, my favorite shooting device is back home and making great images once again!

The Big Gun

Just days after returning from the Tour de Lavender (a photographer's paradise), Yellowstone National Park (where I captured my favorite bear shots of all time so far) and shooting The Wedding, my beloved D300 began eating batteries as if preparing for famine. When I first bought the camera in 2008, I could shoot off up to 1,200 frames on one battery charge.

As the years wore on, that dropped off to about 800 frames, depending upon how much I used the flash and auto focus. Eventually, it got down to about 600 frames per charge, which still was a real treat, after owning two Fuji point-and-shoots that didn't know the meaning of the word conserve. One of the Fujis would see a good day if it could get 100 shots on one set of brand new lithium batteries.

Oh, and take the batteries out of a Fuji when you're not using it. It drains batteries even while turned off. A real turn-off!!!

flakey batteries

For those who've never had the distinct pleasure of consuming lithium batteries at such a high rate, they are about $18 for four, which is what each Fuji required to operate. One particular Fuji could not function well with rechargeables. I'd be lucky to get 20 shots off rechargeable batteries. The camera didn't last one day past its one-year warranty. Then it didn't last three days past its one-year refurb warranty anniversary. Good riddance.

(I'm teasing about the "good riddance," of course. I've taken excellent shots with every camera I've ever owned, even the ones that didn't last long enough.)

Considering that Fuji cost nearly half of the price of the D300 and refurbishing it a year and a day later cost more than half of that amount, along with battery costs during those two years, I'd have been better off saving my dough and plopping it on the Nikon instead. Look how many years the Big Gun Nikon has lasted! As well as how many awesome shots it has snapped!

Icy Air Bubbles

Summer sunrise

Grand Mesa


About three days after shooting approximately 1,000 wedding shots, the D300 began using up fully charged batteries in hours. Sometimes in three or four shots. Something was definitely wrong.

My smaller Nikon, the P510, had suffered a corrupt battery during the Tour de Lavender vacation. Thank heavens the problem was only the battery, I had a spare, and I was able to get two replacements for the same price as the original when I first bought the camera. The camera didn't have to be turned in for servicing, and I had my backup batteries the week after we got back home from vacation.

little Nikon power

This experience prompted me to cross my fingers and replace all three batteries for the D300. All of them were purchased in 2008, so they'd seen a fair amount of use. More than 100,000 shots, in fact. As well as weather extremes on both ends of the thermometer. Please let it be the batteries. Please let it be the batteries. Please let it be the batteries.

Please let it be the batteries...

My dad found replacement batteries for me on eBay that were more powerful, supposedly longer-lasting, and much less expensive with faster and free shipping to boot than the official Nikon battery replacements, which would have cost something equivalent to a large utility bill or another long road trip. Man, those babies are pricey!

I had the new batteries the very next day! I charged the first one overnight. The next day, the camera ate through the first battery in five shots. A brand new battery! Generic, yes, but brand new!

It took a few hours for the second replacement to charge, and then I tried it, with the same results.

My heart was sinking. Somehow, deep inside, I knew from the beginning this time it was not the batteries or the charger, which I had tested after the new batteries failed. After the new batteries failed in the camera, I charged them again and had all my batteries, new and old, tested. Only one of the old batteries failed the test. One bad battery. And one bad, sad, mad, had camera... egad!

The camera was malfunctioning. I would have to take it in. Minimum six to eight weeks. All positive energy crumpled to the ground in a heap of grief.

Crested Butte Autumn Color
Autumn with the Nikon P510

autumn sumac
Autumn with the iPhone

Devastation followed. I tried to cheer myself by reveling in the fact my Big Gun did not die on vacation or during the wedding. It waited until the most important stuff was shot. It knew how much I needed it for that wedding. It limped discreetly through unseen inner pain and suffering and delivered shots that made the newlyweds very, very happy. We have vacation photos that will last a lifetime. My "good" camera was a trooper! I owed it a good servicing. Even if it did mean trusting autumn to a point-and-shoot and my iPhone.

A couple of days later, the camera shop called to tell me they couldn't fix the camera. It would have to be sent back to Nikon. I cried like a baby as I scoured the internet for refurbished D300s. My favorite camera has been discontinued now, of course. A perfectly good camera -- retired because there's always something new and improved; most photographers are addicted to "new and improved."

I did fall in love with the new Nikon D750, which conveniently was released the next day. The price tag caused light-headedness, however. I just can't justify that kind of expense right now. It will take me about three years to save up that much, and by then, it won't be the latest and greatest anymore (which is fine by me), which means it wouldn't cost as much then. I'd been saving for a good camera until about 18 months after the D300 was first released. I saved about $1,000 by unintentionally waiting because the price had dropped that much in a year and a half. (And a newer and more improved model had been released by then.)

The three refurbished D300s I found were double what the repairs to my camera were expected to cost. (NOTE TO SELF: Refurbs have at least a 100% markup!!!!!!) I wasn't about to pay the (exhorbitant) price asked for one of three used D300s I found because with my luck, a used one was for sale simply because it didn't work anymore, not because the owner was upgrading to a better model. I've noticed many Nikon owners tend to hold onto their old models as backups when they upgrade.

I did find one used D300 advertised "in new condition" with only a few hundred images shot. (The D300 is supposed to be good for 150,000 shots before needing an overhaul.) I inquired as to why it was being sold, and the reply of, "I just don't use it" made me me super suspicious. It had been for sale for several months. If it had been a good deal, someone else would have already bought it.

home, sweet home

On the bright side, my fruitless search means I have a really good camera. Nikon owners aren't looking to unload D300s, even when they are old. I bit my tongue, swallowed my pride, and told Nikon to work whatever magic they can to fix my baby.

When I got the phone call eight weeks later telling me the camera was ready, I nearly jumped out of my seat! The repairs were a full $100 less than estimated, and all I had to do was break free from a very busy day at work to walk two blocks to reclaim my Big Gun!

Just in time for Moab!!!

I think I'm in heaven!!! If not, I certainly will be soon!

The Cobra
The Cobra, which fell while I was on vacation in Washington last August

Delicate Arch and the La Sals Through the Window
Delicate Arch and the La Sals Through the Window

Delicate Arch
Delicate Arch Moonrise

Sunrise, Canyonlands National Park
Sunrise, Canyonlands National Park

golden glow
Autumn in Moab


  1. Nothing like a camera that actually works great. Worth it to have it fixed indeed. Nice that it cost less too, always a perk.

    1. I agree, Pat. I had a photography professor who insisted "the nut behind the shutter is always more important than the camera," but I love my D300. No other camera I've ever used is quite as good.

  2. Glad you got your camera back. I have never owned such a great camera but I understand how you must be feeling. Looking forward to more great photos.

    1. Thanks, Charlotte! It's good to be out shooting again!!!

  3. Oh gee whiz, it's always great to see you, and your stunningly unique photos of people and places.

    1. Thanks, Karen! I hope to have more awesome pictures starting next week!

  4. Each morning I find great pleasure in reading your words and seeing your photos - glad that you have your Nikon repaired - hmm, best start to save up for my aging D80 to have a good shop cleaning and visit. So much appreciation for your fine eye and great shots...they stir the creative energy within and I head out with camera or sketchbook.

    1. KAM, thank you so much! It is worth keeping your D80 properly serviced, just like a car. If you take care of a good camera, it will last a lot longer than the warranty!

  5. I like your battery flake! Yes, it's nice to have the Nikon sitting on the desk again. Bring on Moab!

    1. Moab can't come soon enough, can it, Lizard?!? Or last long enough...

  6. Deb, it's so nice to hear that you've been reunited with your camera, and reassuring to know that some things can still be fixed. I'm sure you felt as if you lost an appendage. In this day of disposable appliances and electronics, it makes me happy to know that some companies are still making quality products that they will stand behind.

    1. Thanks, Patty, and my gosh, is it good to see you again!!!

      I've been on a quest for many years now to keep using things (and keep them in usable condition) for as long as I possibly can. I just can't fall in love with the idea of buying new all the time.

  7. What an interesting post, Snowcatcher, starting with the picture of you at the top. I'm going to have to do some clicking to see some of your other photos via the links. I'm sorry that you have had such a challenging time with batteries and your camera, but I'm glad to hear that everything ended well. Your photos are just gorgeous. They almost make me want to go out and get a better camera; but sadly I don't have the personality to how with something more complicated than my point-and-shoot. I'm always on the move. Your shot of Delicate Arch and the La Sals Through the Window is stunningly beautiful. I first saw Moab in 1981, before it was "discovered," and when the locals were afraid it would dry up and blow away because the mines were closing. I was on my way down to Bluff to sit on a well that was drilling. I had never been in the Four Corners area before, and I was entranced. Terry and I hiked to Delicate Arch for my 40th birthday. There are few spots as lovely as it in the world. Happy shooting with your good bud!

  8. I'm so glad you have your big gun back!!!! I did the same thing as Nikon owners of D300's when I upgraded my Canon. I kept the old one to use if/when the new one lands in the hospital.

    The photos tell the story of you and your favorite camera. I'm so glad that you had your fave camera for Moab!

    1. Gag, you're going to laugh like the dickens, KB... I didn't take the Big Gun to Moab. I decided not to get dust in it again so quickly. I took the point and shoot. And it did just fine. :)

      Still using the Big Gun for macros here at home though, and loving every minute of it.

  9. Wow, what a relief to have it back! Looking forward to those Moab photos....

    And yes, you take great photos with ANY camera!

    1. Why thank you, Sue! That's a supreme compliment!!!

      Moab was sensational! As always!


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