Traveling with a monorail : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm going to be taking my first trip with my monorail in a few weeks and am at a bit of a loss. I'm heading down to the Southwest US (Nevada, S. CA, Arizona, and New Mexico) for a rather quick tour with some friends. My questions have to do with my best options for carrying the camera as well as film. I have researched extensively but still have some remaining questions.

I have an Arca-Swiss Discovery and have already accepted the fact that the camera will NOT be able to go on the plane with me but will have to be checked. I have a non-photo backpack that I use when traveling by car and am wondering if putting that into a Pelican case will work if all lenses, meter, groundglass, etc are wrapped in neoprene wraps? My concern is that by not using a genuine photo case/backpack where everything is well-padded, that something will get damaged; but on the other hand it seems to me that most of this stuff is fairly sturdy. I would stuff the empty spaces between the hard case and the backpack with clothes or foam. Am I just being paranoid? I do want to have a backpack once I get there so I can comfortably walk a bit so simply using a padded case is not an option.

My second question deals with film. How much? I know this is a highly subjective question, but I really don't know. With my 35mm I usually guess what I'm going to take (assume 2-3 rolls/day) and then increase by 50%. That method has worked well for me over the years. I have 10 film holders for my B&W and a Fuji Quickload for my Provia. I was simply going to assume one full set of holders/day and then probably half as many sheets of Provia. I am admittedly film-happy and will be experimenting a lot with filters in B&W.

I suspect that I have answered my own questions in my post, but would really like some additional opinions.


-- Jennifer Waak (, December 03, 2001


jenn - i would not recommend checking your camera. find a good carry- on rollabout, break your camera down as far as you can, and pack it int there and carry it on with you. i have already done this a couple of times since 9-11 and it has not been a problem. for film and holders, you may want to try the kodak readyload system - it is a lightweight and convenient way to carry lots of film. i carry about 100-200 negs on my day trips for habs/haer work. i could never do that with regular film holders.

-- jnorman (, December 03, 2001.

Go ahead and check it, but be sure to insure it fully against loss or damage, and make sure it applies in a foreign country. If you put it into a backpack arrangement, ask the airline ticket agent to put it into one of their cardboard containers. It will protect it from knocks a little and from theives a lot. Edward Weston carried 10 double holders of 8x10 every day for his trip through California and the West -- that's 20 shots/day. Probably not a bad precident. Good Luck -- have fun.

-- Wilhelm (, December 03, 2001.


I carry my Arca-Swiss on board all the time... it will fit in most carryon luggage. You could check lenses since they are pretty easy to wrap up in bubble wrap and/or styrofoam.

Have you considered buying film along the way. You can order from mail order shops if you are going to be at or near a delivery address for a day, or there are good large format suppliers in Phoenix, LA and Albuquerque.

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (, December 03, 2001.

Edward Weston was also a nudist and liked to dress up in Tina Modotti's clothes. Are those also good precedents to follow? Should one also suffer from Parkinson's as well in order to make a name for ones self?

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, December 03, 2001.

I travel the SW with a Toyo 8x10 mono. On the plane, I pack as much as I can into a large Pelican, the backpack goes into a suitcase with my clothes. When I get to the destination I unload the Pelican and load the backpack. 8x10 Film is available in S.CA and Las Vegas, so you can buy it there if you don't mind the time, else just pack it away in the Pelican.

On the return trip I usually UPS the Pelican and exposed film to myself, fully insured. A little pricey, but it cuts down on the Tums intake while on the plane :-)

_All_ my camera equipment is insured thru my personal property insurance co. (Allstate) and I call them a day or two before I get on a plane just to make sure I'm paid up on the premiums.

How much film? Jeez, no matter how much you take there's never enough :-) Bryce alone can suck up 10 sheets of 8x10 per day. I've been known to fire off 3-4 rolls of 35mm on the tortoises in the preserve just west of Vegas. You're going to be experimenting with filters? then stock up on outdated Polaroid film for the test shots, it's pretty cheap nowadays.

There's intermitent rainstorms in the area, so stay out of slot canyons and other flash flood zones. OTOH, the sunsets are glorious with all the spotty clouds. Bring some heavy plastic bags (I use trash compactor bags) and lots of large, thick rubber bands to keep your gear dry.

-- Mike Kelleghan (, December 03, 2001.

Glenn, can you suggest some LF suppliers on Phoenix and Albuquerque? Knowing I'll have 2 possible places to refill will help. Thanks!

-- Jennifer Waak (, December 03, 2001.

Photomark in phoenix. If Rod Klukas is still he is a great walking resource of large format info. They are also one of the best Arca-Swiss dealers in the USA.

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, December 03, 2001.

In New mexico you might want to contact the Santa Fe Workshops and see what they recommend if they don't carry it at the workshop stores:

-- Ellis Vener Photography (, December 03, 2001.


I backpacked with my Arca-Swiss Discovery to the Philippines in January along with other cameras. The way I packed mine was to separate the standards from the carrier and leaving the carriers on the rail. This leaves you with two packable pieces. The sandards/bellow/lens can be wrapped in a large lens wrap (Calumet 18".) The carriers and rail wrapped in another one. Any other lenses/boards can be wrapped individually also. I just packed them between some clothes in my backpack and check it in as luggage with no problems.

As for holders, I took just two and a changing bag. Although now I would probably take my Polaroid back and a bunch of Readyloads/Quickloads (Tmax now available also.)


-- Allan Fontanilla (, December 03, 2001.

Jennifer - Your best bet here in Albuquerque for supplies is Camera and Darkroom (3225 Central Ave. NE; 505-255-1133) (this is a new location for them - they moved a few blocks this fall). They also have a shop in Santa Fe. They don't have real extensive large format inventory, but should have most films. It certainly wouldn't hurt to call ahead to check on stock/availability.

If you want to get some processing done here in town - my experience is with E-6...Carl's Darkroom and Camera Graphics seem to be the most widely used by pros.


-- Bill Stone (, December 03, 2001.

I was just considering your line, "rather quick tour with some friends". I hope their shooting as well, or don't mind the slower pace your monorail will require. There's alot to see and to shoot! Also, how many people are traveling in your car for this 4 state jaunt? Hope the trunks big.

-- Wayne Crider (, December 03, 2001.

Thanks for the great suggestions, everyone. It seems that I may be able to do this without purchasing anything other than film (which is the right answer in the throes of the holiday season). Ellis, I will definitely stop in at PhotoMark.


-- Jennifer Waak (, December 03, 2001.

In addition to the other shops mentioned, Camera Graphics Lab in Albuquerque is both a Fuji Professional film dealer and a Fuji Labnet member. Their prices on Fuji Quickloads were very good.

-- Glenn C. Kroeger (, December 03, 2001.

Boy, some of you guys work quick - 100+ shots per day!!!

Jennifer, your Discovery can be broken down to a failry small size, as you probably already know. Should be able to fit into a smaller backpack, so why not carry on? You remove two of travels' biggest questions - will my luggage arrive with me?, and if so - will it be in one piece?

You didn't mention the whole size of your kit in terms of lenses, meters, etc., so maybe it's really NOT possible, but I'd try it first.

-- Michael Mahoney (, December 03, 2001.

In regard to the "Ellis Vener Photography" comments on Edward Weston...

You are free to have your opinion of any artist's success, or lack of success, and it is well within your freedoms to agree, or disagree, with another's eccentric behavior...

...but to point out a man's physical misfortune as a matter of critique is a bit uncalled for.
-- Dave Richhart (, December 03, 2001.

I have huge admiration for all of the Westons, especially Edward, both as a person and for his ground breaking work.

Who was commenting on someone's physical misfortune as a matter of critique.? My point is: just because someone famous did something doesn't mean you should follow it slavishly.

By the way, my father is dying very, very slowly from Parkinson's. to watch a great man, someone you love waste away over months and months is agony and perhaps leads one to start wanting to critique the great work of Creation.

-- Ellis Vener (, December 03, 2001.

The remarks by Ellis Vener pertaining to Edward Weston I found offensive and self serving. Not because my father recently died from the ravages of Parkinson's or that coincidentally he was a friend of Edward Weston or that as a boy I watched Edward suffer so terribly. No,it is that a question was asked and a comment was made. The remarks addressed neither. Ellis, I wish you and your father the best. Regards, Merg Ross

-- Merg Ross (, December 03, 2001.

Okay, I apologize for the Parkinson'e part of my response to Wilhelm Mitchell's remark about Weston. Those were overkill and out of line. Weston's illness had nothing to do with his career except to cut it too short. on the other hand his strong drive for creative freedom, even if it meant cross dressing , I heartily applaud.

I do fail to understand how my remarks were in any way "self serving." how do I benefit from making them? If Merg would be so kind as to respond off list to explain that part of her remarks to me I will be be grateful for the enlightenment.

-- Ellis Vener (, December 03, 2001.

To answer a few questions:

My kit consists of the camera, 3 lenses, reflex viewer, and all of the associated accessories. I can substitute the reflex viewer for my dark cloth if I must (read: run out of room). I also have a point and shoot for those occasions where the 4x5 just won't work, such as Camelback Mtn. in Phoenix.

As for my friends, there are 3 of us. My two friends understand and encourage my photography, so there should be sufficient patience. When we stop they can wander off and leave me behind to photograph and we'll all be happy. Plus they want to have some spa days during which I can steal the car and photography from dawn until dusk.

-- Jennifer Waak (, December 03, 2001.

I hear of people checking their camera equipment and not having a problem. But, I've never checked MY camera. Good heavens!

I have a larger backpack that just sneaks by the airlines' size restrictions. I carry my Arca-Swiss, extra bellows, and five lenses, all protected in their own compartment in the pack. I stow the pack and contents in an upper compartment. Other items, like my polaroid holder, filters, and stuff that's easily replaced are stored in my suitcase, duffle bag, or separately in their own bag.

For smaller planes, I've had to yield my pack at the plane for storage in the luggage area. But, I'm there to pick it up just as it comes out, too.

Do you have home owners or rental insurance? It might be a good idea to have photos, serial numbers, etc., of your equipment available, just in case.

-- neil poulsen (, December 03, 2001.

If you're looking for a new hobby Jen, you could always buy an affordable Janomi sewing machine, some 1050 denier cordura, some ensolite foam, and make your own full-custom, to-your-specs tote for your Large Format equipment :)

Your film usage estimates sound good to me.

-- edward kang (, December 04, 2001.

I have friends that regularly check underwater cameras. Some of them use sturdy ice chests instead of camera cases. They are cheaper and don't scream "steal me". However, sometimes the airlines might refuse to accept liability as they are not "luggage".

I have traveled several million miles and have learned the hard way not to trust the airlines with anything you are expecting to need again. You can and should when making connections check to each destination and then recheck. Leave yourself time. Also, be sure your carry-on can be checked in a pinch. Some airlines will almost pry them out of your hands, espcially with the very small feeder flights. So be sure they are well padded and locked. I was seperated from a Nikonos RS and 3 lenses that way one time and it didn't catch up until the following flight. This was in a 3rd world country. Nothing had been touched, but I used a whole roll of Rolaids while waiting.

-- Neal Shields (, December 05, 2001.

Be aware!!! Several of the airlines will weigh your carry on. If it is overweight, they will insist that you check it. Quantas and British Airways can be very un-reasonable.

-- Neal Shields (, December 05, 2001.

My Gowland 8x10" monorail fits in a knapsack designed for laptop computers, with 3-4 lenses, up to 5 holders, and the usual accessories. The two rails go in the bottom of the bag. No problem regarding size requirements for carry on with this setup.

I usually am travelling with a laptop computer, so for the plane, the laptop and film go in the knapsack I carry on, and the holders go in checked baggage. The tripod goes in a Tenba TTP case, which is shippable, also checked. I also carry a spare empty film box and about 5 opaque black plastic bags (for sorting different sheets for development) in checked luggage for exposed film (but I bring them back on board--never check film).

Five holders of 8x10" usually works for me for one excursion (a half day). I'm usually able to get back to where I'm staying to change film if I need more. Eventually I'll do some trip where I need more than that and won't have the opportunity to go back to the hotel so often, and then I'll buy a Harrison film tent.

I definitely advocate dressing up in Tina Modotti's clothes in moderation.

-- David Goldfarb (, December 05, 2001.

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