traveling and film/equipment : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I will be traveling to London in March. I am not a seasoned traveler. My equipment will be a small lightweight field camera, and a small lightweight tripod. 4x5 film. I will keep my equipment and film with me at all times. Any advise would be appreciated. I was wondering. The film will be in my pocket. I will put a blank and an exposed sheet of film outside the box so customs can see what is in the box. But how does one do a hand inspection of film in a box? When I walk through the metal detector with the film on me, can this damage my film? And if I take it out of the foil wrapper, and replace it with a plastic bag inside the box, when I am walking through the metal detector, there will not be any "metal" alert. Correct? So my film will go undected? Therefore, then not needing to send it through the carry-on detector? which is stronger rays? Sorry if I'm confusing, but I'm inexperienced at this. This will be T-Max 400. I think I will try to get the film developed in London, but this depends on the wait. Thanks for your response.

-- Raven (, October 06, 2001


You're dreaming if you think you're going to get a hand inspection of anything around NYC or LAX anymore or probably any other US airport and London Heathrow never will do one. You're best bet is to put the film in your carry-on, wince when it goes through the x-ray and not worry about it, even with 400 film. I've had sheet film (100 and 400) x-rayed numerous times, and actually put through a roll of 1000 speed 35mm all around Europe and Australia for numerous trips as an experiment, and it came out fine. But don't pack film in your checked luggage as the machines used on baggage is much more powerful.

As to my field camera- I pack it in an f64 padded backpack with its GG cover and the blackcloth, then pack the whole thing in a suitcase with clothing around it and check it as baggage. Has worked for me well and I've done around 150,000 miles in the past 12-14 months.


-- Richard Rankin (, October 06, 2001.

Traveling with film, camera and tripod presents three separate problems.

First, film: there is a new Kodak site (the address of which I did not bookmark) which says forget traveling with film post 9/11. Buy film when you get to your destination and develop before returning. Kodak evidently expects the carry-on x-ray machines to be more powerful than pre 9/11. Kodak's site did not say this was gospel just that it is likely to become true. But if it not true, then it appears to be OK to put film in your carry-on luggage but not your checked luggage. If it is true, then we have a problem because finding sheet film, loading it, (or finding ready load) and finding a reliable place to develop it in some strange place will be difficult and often impossible. In any case, stuffing film into your pockets (less any foil bags) as always worked for me. No inspection is ever done and the metal detector won't harm film. Works best in the winter with the extra pockets and bulky clothes. Just bought the Fuji QuickChange from Robt White but haven't got it yet (see its discussion of a few weeks ago here.) That should allow one to carry about 24-36 sheets easily. But the cartridge part must have at least a metal spring, though it supposed to be plastic. So I am not sure about that yet.

I have made a case for my tripod as opposed to buying one that says "Gitzo---steal me" all over it. I made from 6" sewer pipe with a glued fitting on one end and a screw fitting on the other. Lined with closed cell foam (i.e., a back packing mattress), it has proven indestructible as checked baggage. It has a shoulder strap attached to two bolt eyes and drawer pull as a handle. It still has the sewer pipe stencil on it for good measure. Perhaps it's too ugly to steal.

My camera I always carry on after stripping anything too heavy out of the case. Otherwise it will be stolen or damaged by the baggage gorillas. I have checked through the best camera cases but it is like rolling dice; sometimes you get everything back intact other times not. A wooden camera evokes fewer fears; I have been asked to turn on my Technikardan.

All in all, it is becoming a big problem. But I am not ready throw in the towel. Maybe we should use this forum to arrange equipment swaps with like-minded photographers world wide and just carry on tooth brushes like normal people!

-- John Hennessy (, October 06, 2001.

raven specific to travelling to London it is not possible to have any film hand inspected in UK and that has been the case for many years. I regularly travel through and it is a British Law that all carry - on be x-rayed. I suggest you purchase your film in London,Teamwworks is a great shop in the downtown area and it caters to pros and LF. there are also many other stores so just research it. as for returning home,either have the film processed in London or again be sure to research current info. on xray machines. all the best

-- robert lyons (, October 06, 2001.

This appears to be the latest from Kodak on the subject - there's a link to it from the home page:

In brief, they say that within the US, you should not worry about putting film through the scanners for carry-in luggage. Some passengers may be taken aside and asked to have their carry-on scanned in one of the more powerful machines. In that case, Kodak advises asking for a hand inspection, and suggests having film wrapped in clear plastic for the convenience of the security staff. Of course, that's useless advice with sheet film.

Overseas, all bets are off. Kodak advises seeking a hand inspection, but they will refuse this at Heathrow, and possibly at many other airports as well...

-- Oren Grad (, October 06, 2001.

Raven, As others have said, Heathrow does not allow for a hand inspection of anything, never mind film, and that is true for many Euro countries that I've been fact when i do ask for a hand inspection, they'll refuse it and it seems to me that they scan the item for an even longer time!

If you are concerned about your film, London will carry pro shops that stock TMAX 400.

There are a couple of things that I would recomend for travel. Keep your tripod with your check-in to avoid issues with the size of your carry-on bag, and, carry a back-up ground glass. (I have also considered replacing my GG with a plastic version for travelling). If your gg breaks when you are out there, you could be hauling alot of useless gear.

What I would like to know is how Kodak ships their product to other countries without getting it scanned? If this is possible what about pre-shipping your film ahead of time and picking it up when you get there and then shipping it back? This may be more trouble than its worth if you are only going to London, but if you are travelling to a more secluded country, it may work out?!

-- Dave (, October 07, 2001.

...sorry, I meant to say that "London will HAVE pro shops that carry TMAX 400".

-- dave (, October 07, 2001.

Within the last week, I received a forwarded email from a friend in which the writer described the following incident. As he was going through an airport check stand, the attendent insisted on opening his film boxes to check the film. After an "exchange", they finally ended up in a dark closet so that the attendent could check every fourth box.

The same email also indicated that airports had been instructed to raise the X-Ray power to maximum, and that film was being fogged.

I suppose one can get color developed at the destination of travel, but how about black and white? Does UPS or Federal Express x-ray their packages? One could purchase film there and then ship it back home for development.

-- neil poulsen (, October 07, 2001.

London's a civilized place. I would just purchase film there.

That said, FedEx says they don't routinely X-ray, since there are no passengers on their flights, and cargo flights are not seen as likely targets, so shipping is an option, or you could purchase film there and ship back. Just don't pack any drugs or explosives with your film, or they might attract the attention of the dogs.

In some airports, I've brought sealed boxes of film and explained what they were and haven't had a problem. If they have the machine that tests for explosive residue, they can test the box by wiping the outside and putting the wipe in the machine.

I'm usually asked to open my camera case, because all those strange shutters and cable releases and such look suspicious, but I just explain politely what it is, and haven't had any difficulties.

I usually check my tripod in a Tenba TTP bag, and that's always been fine.

Have a great trip!

-- David Goldfarb (, October 07, 2001.

Here is the address of the Kodak site I could not find earlier. It is not encouraging.

-- John Hennessy (, October 07, 2001.

For what it's worth, I just returned from a week in CO and had VC160 and Provia-100 ReadyLoads/QuickLoads x-ray'ed twice as carry-on baggage (in Memphis on the outbound and in Denver on the return) and just developed them and they show no fog. Many do suffer from composition problems, however, but that's my fault.

-- Steve Baggett (, October 07, 2001.

Are the people currently going through the airport carryon scanners putting their film in lead lined film bags? I'm just curious. I've always traveled this way and would like to know how airport security reacts to these since 9/11.

-- wdnagel (, October 08, 2001.

Raven: your strategy for going through security will work (it's what I do all the time). Metal detectors don't affect film.

The "high-intensity X-ray machines" mentioned in the Kodak page are easily distingished from the ordinary X-ray machines by their huge size. There is one or more in the ticket area of SFO, but next to them *there is a sign* warning passengers to remove all film before scanning. You cannot any longer request hand inspection at routine security, but routine security does not use so far the "high-intensity X-ray machines" and has a sign posted saying that film won't be harmed. I don't think it would be acceptable for the airlines to fog film, even in the name of (bogus, IMO) security. I expect if they ever use the "high-intensity X-ray machines" for routine inspection, they'll have to hand-inspect film again. In the meantine, I wouldn't worry as much as the Kodak page would suggest.

-- Q.-Tuan Luong (, October 08, 2001.

Just retuned from London, I brought 100, 120 rolls with me from Denmark, since the film price in London are twice compared to Denmark. They were all scanned in the carry-on luggage -no damage. They are VERY concerned in London about the size and contents of the hand luggage, they only allow a small amount of personal items at the moment, and I think you may get a hard time convincing the security that you can bring the camera with you in the cabin.

I will give my warmest recommendations for development in London to: Tapestry.MM, 51-52 Frith Street down in Soho, they do beautiful development in 90 min.

Have a nice trip

-- adam mørk (, October 11, 2001.


If you're worried about XRays, get your film at Teamwork (Foley St W1 - they're about 10% cheaper than Calumet for most film types and have good stock levels) and have it developed by one of the labs in Soho - Tapestry and Metro are ok, though I always use Joe's Basement on Wardour St - they're open 24x7 and are very reliable.

Personally though I wouldn't worry. I flew back from Beirut yesterday where security is extra-sensitive at the mo - my bags (containing 400 sheets of exposed Provia) went through two extra sets of x-ray machines on the way into the airport and there are no traces of fogging. Everything went into checked baggage - the Gitzo in my main rucksack and the Wista etc in a Tenba backpack. Nothing was harmed by this experience - I just made sure I was at the front of the carousel at Heathrow!

Enjoy your trip and don't forget to check out Teamwork - it's a great little shop and the only decent LF specialist in London. Oh - and remember that this being england, in March the weather will be really miserable!

-- Stuart Whatling (, October 12, 2001.

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