Packing a monorail : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I have just switched from a folding metal field camera to a monorail (Arca FC compact 6X9) and am wondering what those of you who do field work with monorails do to protect the groundglass and bellows when carrying the camera in a photo backpack or when backpacking. I have a LowePro Pro Trekker and was thinking about just wrapping the camera up in bubble wrap but am curious what others do, if anything, to give the camera a little added protection.

-- Mark Windom (, April 27, 2002


I discovered that a couple of large Domke wraps work pretty well -- I hook the two together to create a complete wrap around the whole thing and if I do it right there is sometimes an end with a piece of velcro left to hook under the rail and up around the other side to hold in place. I keep toying with the idea of making a semi-fitted "sack" with a drawstring but I never seem to get that far.

I'll be curious to see what others do. At one point I was using my darkcloth, but I have since given that up for a reflex viewer.

BTW, I don't use a photo backpack -- just a regular top-loading backpack from REI. With a photo backpack I think I'd be less worried about it.

-- Jennifer Waak (, April 28, 2002.

I had a similar setup as yours, mine being the Discovery and the Phototrekker. I simply swung both standards full to one side and laid the camera flat in the bag. This of course after moving the compartment dividers around slightly to the correct size.

With a bigger bag or smaller camera, don't swing the standards as much ... the idea is to have them about snug with the top of the bag. I didn't do anything to protect the groundglass. The WA bellows could stay on during the above procedure, the satndard bellows had to be removed.

-- Michael Mahoney (, April 28, 2002.

The March/April issue of View Camera Mag has an article with illustrations on this topic.

-- Hans Berkhout (, April 28, 2002.

There is of course the Calumet ground glass protector. It is a simple piece of plastic that slips under and over the GG protecting it from both sides.

-- David Goldes (, April 28, 2002.

I think if you go back through the archive, you'll find a lot of creativity. This also seems to be a moving target; currently when I take my Cambo into the field I mount the bag bellows and a short rail - all of my lenses currently go from 65-240, and except for close-up stuff, the bag bellows accomodates 99% of my picture taking. The ground glass has a Calumet cover. I typically fold the frames as flat as can occur on the rail - sometimes taking the back off and packing it separately. The camera gets wrapped in the black cloth or in a huge piece of stretchy camo that I carry sometimes for nature shots. If I anticipate some good macro, then I pack the bellows closed and separately (lunch bag for that too!), and a long rail can be tied on or slipped down a side.) I find the bellows to be fragile outside, hence the use of the bag bellows (ok, I'm a klutz, alright?) Lenses and film holders go in arctic zone lunch bags, and the whole load and the miscellanea gets packed into an Eddie Bauer backpack -this particular pack is designed as a quick go for flying, has wheels and a pullout handle, as well as pack straps, and a double outside pocket that takes what won't fit in pack. The handle assembly creates a frame when its collapsed into the kit. All up weighs about 30 lb with 4-5 lenses. For a longer trek, I have several larger backpacks which will carry the additional camp gear. At that point tho, its good to have a couple of strong companions, 'cause the packs do get heavy. I gave up on the photo backpacks as overpadded, too heavy. Part of the secret to survival of your gear (and you) when packing is to watch your step, and take your time. The best accident is the one that's avoided.

-- Paul Coppin (, April 28, 2002.

I wrap the whole thing up inside the focusing cloth. If I have extra clothing along, I use that for padding as well. I've been doing it this way for several years with no problems so far.

-- Dave Brown (, April 28, 2002.

My 8x10" Gowland goes in a padded knapsack designed for laptop computers. I remove the rails, but leave the rail clamps attached to the standards. For extra protection, and because it fits nicely this way, I usually put the darkcloth, folded, over the front of the camera. The groundglass faces the back panel of the pack. I can put up to 5 filmholders in the middle compartment (designed for notebooks and such), and my lenses and accessories in the other compartments. I usually have one smaller lens attached to the camera.

-- David Goldfarb (, April 28, 2002.

-Calumet GG protector. -Short piece of pipe in the rail mounts to keep the standards from sliding around. -Fitted plywood box, with assorted foam inserts, to protect from external pressure or penetration. The box goes in:

1-A _real_ backpak with proper straps, padding and hip supports. Very light, and great for long hikes. (Large photo packs try to do everything for everybody, but do nothing completely well) 2-A Lightware bag for auto trips, studio visits and other non-hiking trips. Standard hand-truck to lug it around with. 3-A pelican case for airline travel, or anytime somebody besides me is going to handle luggage.

Lenses, filter, etc. go in assorted small photo bags, and those in one or two large lawyers book bags (lots of room, nice straps). Film in tupperware (for water protection when in ice chest, air tight if saran wrapped under the lid), film holders in Pyrex "portables" dish warmer.

Tripods in padded tripod bags, heads never fit so I quick release them all and toss the heads in with the corresponding camera. Backdrops and light stands in duffel bags. Lights, cables, dimmers, etc in large Anvil case.

Aspirin for aching back and feet stored in pants pocket :-)

-- Mike Kelleghan (, April 28, 2002.

I've started using an internal frame backpacking pack to carry my cambo sc 4x5. My backpack just has one big pocket, and a removeable punch thay goes on the top. The rail is 18"(i think) which is about 1" wider than the pack, so you can see it on the sides. To pack it i just move both standards as close to the center of the rail as possible, and put it in the pack. I put the focusing cloth around the ground glass to protect, and put something over the front of the camera. If im actually camping my sleeping bag lives at the bottom of the pack, and the camera just above it, if im not camping the camera goes in the bottom of the bag. There are mesh pockets on the side meant to carry watter bottles in, i put the ends of my tripod legs in one and the straps on the side of the pack holding it in place, and put water on the other side. it seems to work fairly well.

-- jesse crocker (, April 28, 2002.

I carry my Linhof monorail system in a LowePro Super Trekker AW. With my Linhof I can easily detatch the standards from the rail, so I do that, and just stow the two standards and bellows in one compartment in the pack and the rail next to them in its own compartment. Off the rail, the two standards and bellows occupy about the same amount of room as a 4x5 field camera and the rail doesn't take up a huge amount of room, so it's pretty easy to pack. I don't do anything extra to pad the camera- I've found that the padding built into the pack is more than enough. Since you're shooting 6x9, your camera should be all that much easier to stow, given the smaller size. I'm not going to start the debate as to whether a photo-specific backpack is a better way to go or whatever, but I've been extremely pleased with my LowePro pack, so you might want to check out one of the smaller models, since the Super Trekker is absolutely enormous.

-- David Munson (, April 28, 2002.

Mark, Since I have the same camera I'll chime in. This camera fits perfectly, with lens attached, in the top compartment of the small Outpack. Often I do not bother to put anything over the gg. If I'm carrying a sweatshirt I sometimes put that around it.

I can also fit 2 Horseman backs and the bino viewer & eyecup in the center section, and some film and Polaroid back in the zipper section, and the Pentax spotmeter in the side pocket. I wish it had one more pocket for a snack, but otherwise it works well, is all padded, and fits easily into airline overhead compartments.

When I carry extra lenses, I wrap them in Domke cloths and put them in a very small padded Igloo-like cooler thing from the five & dime store.

The tripod is another (pain-in-the-ass) story.


-- Sandy Sorlien (, April 29, 2002.

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