Air Travel Suggestions for Film

Discussion in '35mm Cameras and Accessories' started by snegron, Feb 5, 2007.

  1. snegron

    snegron Member

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    I was debating on whether to place this post in the Geographic Locations forum or here, but I believe that it has more to do about equipment than places to shoot. The question is what would be the best method of packing film for air travel? I am currently in Florida, U.S., and I might be traveling during the month of April. I really want to pack several rolls of Fuji Astia 100 F for my F100 (and my F3HP as well), but I am concerned about X rays.

    Considering how TSA's behave differently from one airport to the next, I don't want to rely on having them hand check my film. The way things are going nowadays they might think I am packing explosives in my film canisters.

    The last two times I travelled (last was January 14th) I carried only digital equipment because I was going to shoot a wedding ( I use digital for work, but I use film for art and higher end imaging), so film was not a problem. The only problem I ran into was at the TSA checkpoint in Puerto Rico. They hand checked my camera bag and ran it through a series of tests to see if it carried any exposives. Funny thing is that the TSA's in Miami International Airport did not hand check the same bag loaded with the same exact equipment. The TSA from Puerto Rico also decided to interrogate me as to why I was carrying my equipment and what each item was for. Good thing I was there an hour before departure! All I had in the camera bag was two D1X bodies, two SB-800 Speedlights, One D200 body, a 17-55mm 2.8 lens, an 80-200mm 2.8 lens, and about 15 CF cards.

    I don't trust checked baggage because I have had my luggage stolen. Any suggestions?
     
  2. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    Even within the same airport, different TSA agents treat the same customer and same carry-on bag differently. Part of it is individual differences in the agents, part of it is the randomeness that is designed into their procedures, and part of it is who-knows-what. Anyone carrying as much interesting equipment as you report carrying is bound to get some sort of attention.

    Why let it bother you? It sounds like every TSA agent you have encountered so far has respected your request. Or am I mistaken.

    My suggestion is to keep on doing what you have been doing. Ask for a hand-check if you are the worrying type. Otherwise consider visiting any one of three sites for information on film safety and airport X-ray: TSA, Kodak or I3A. My capsule summary of all three is that there is no problem, except with exceptionally high-speed film: leave the film in your carry-on bag and put it through the x-ray machine. My experience validates their claims.
     
  3. snegron

    snegron Member

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    It doesn't bother me one bit. I simply used that example to depict the unexpected actions of TSA's at different locations. This means that what works at one airport might not work at another. Therefore, what concerns me is that if I rely on hand checking my film at one airport, I might find that at the next airport they will refuse to do so and make me throw it through the X ray machine.

    This brings me to my concern about Xray machines. I have seen several reports that indicate that X rays cause damage to exposed film. I have seen other reports indicating Xrays only affect high speed film. What about exposed slide film? Will it be damged by X rays?

    Again, I have ony travelled recently with digital equipment. The only film I had were a few rolls of exposed Kodachrome 64.
     
  4. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Aw geez, how many threads a month do we have to have on this topic?!

    Search the forum - this topic has been discussed again, and again and again!
     
  5. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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    I just got back from China. I had my 400 asa film along that I had taken to India and then to China, Macau, and Hong Kong. Xrayed every step of the way. I think in total, I have had it xrayed round 10 times through the carry-on xray machines. Not a lick of trouble, no fogging, banding, or what not.

    Just an fyi.
     
  6. BradS

    BradS Member

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    A couple of years ago I travelled all over the UK, Ireland and Spain with Ilford Delta 3200. I let it go through the carry on baggage screening machine at every airport (do not even think about asking for a hand check in Spain or Germany). No problem. Just carry the film in your carry on bag and let it go through the machine...
     
  7. eddym

    eddym Member

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    Interesting! I live in PR, so obviously have to fly through the San Juan airport to get anywhere. I always request a hand check and get it with no questions asked, and it is relatively quick but thorough. About half the time they will open the Porter rolling case to look at the camera equipment (especially if I have my Zone VI spotmeter inside!), but even then, it's a quick wipe with the explosive sniffing pad, and I'm on my way.
    The slowest hand check I've ever had was in the Raleigh airport last April. The TSA agent very slowly, painstakingly swabbed each and every roll of film, which I had packed, without cannisters, in a clear plastic Ziplock bag. Fine with me... I wasn't late for the flight, and he was doing his job. No biggie.
     
  8. eddie gunks

    eddie gunks Member

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    i ask for hand checks and get it every time. i have had film x rayed bythe carry on machine....no problem. i even forgot two 4x5 holders loaded with tmax100 in my check bags and guess what?....no problem.

    i also send my film and cameras to locations i am shooting by the USPS. this way i do not have to carry them or worry about my film. again. no problems.

    all in all i have had no problems.....but i still always ask for a hand check.

    eddie
     
  9. Robert Hall

    Robert Hall Subscriber

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    And trust me, y'all, Eddie gets around!
     
  10. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    eddie,

    You and I are compadres on this point!

    I just sent out about 30 rolls of 120 to Tucson via USPS Priority (just to be sure, I ship them inside the lead pouch) so they and the lead pouch will be waiting for me when I get there late next week.

    For the return trip, any exposed film not processed there I'll carry on in the lead pouch and ask for hand inspection - which I've never been refused.

    Oh, and one very important rule, be as polite to the TSA inspector as you would be to your Mom on Christmas Eve! Works wonders when you treat these folk with respect. :wink:
     
  11. snegron

    snegron Member

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    What I don't get is that there have been so many articles in magazines indicating the damage done to exposed film going through X ray machines. They always show the damage as a shift in colors or rainbow effect. Are there certain emulsions (other than higher ISO) that are more prone to be damaged by X rays? Is slide film more sensitive to this than negative film?
     
  12. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Almost one year after my subscription expired, Pop Photo finally sent me an issue that said it was the final one.

    I am very pleased, as I have not seen an article dealing with the supposed deleterious effects of airport X-rays on film in that magazine in many years (if ever). In fact, except for exhuming Herb Eppler every once in a while - I haven't seen anything in that rag about film for a long, long time.

    Have you seen these kinds magazine articles recently in other publications? Is there still a mass market photography magazine that discusses film in any context, much less how it is affected by airport x-rays?

    If so, please advise as I'd love to find a mass market photog mag that still talks about film!
     
  13. Drew B.

    Drew B. Subscriber

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    yesterday, I walked up to the security area at LAX and after putting all my film in a separate bag, asked the security officials to hand check the film, they did and sent me on my way. No problem.
     
  14. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

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    This is really the only piece of information required beyond that provided by "the authorities". Why everyone worries this issue so much or tries to "outwit" the system is truely a mystery to me! :smile:

    http://www.apug.org/forums/346941-post22.html

    http://www.i3a.org/itip.html

    http://www.i3a.org/pdf/I3AFilmXrayTestReport.pdf
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 6, 2007
  15. Steve Bellayr

    Steve Bellayr Member

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    Film: I fly out of Dulles...no problem having the film hand inspected even if it is crowded. Returned from Heathrow with exposed film. They will not hand inspect film. All film is xrayed. The film came out fine when I had it developed. Returned from Mexico and made the "mistake" of putting film in luggage. Came back fine as did second trip when it was xrayed in my carry on. As I understand it xray machines have become more "sophisticated". One technician showed me the xray of film in the black bag as it went through and pointed out that you could see right through it. I have also been informed that film up to ASA 800 (even slightly higher) will not be affected. There are other sites on the net with more info. than me.
     
  16. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I have always separated my film in a plastic bag and requested hand inspections on many flights and never had a problem. Until I was returning from a flight to Hawai'i and a very green TSA employee insisted on x-raying everything. I nicely explained that I was carrying professional film from a wedding and that I had the right and privilege to request and get a hand inspection. He adamately refused and got rude. I pulled out my business card from my previous employer [Kodak] and told him that I knew what I was talking about and that he needed to call his supervisor. He refused and then I went ballistic. His boss came running. The green employee had his say. I had mine, then the boss appologized for the trouble and took me around the security check point.

    Moral: Be sure you are right and then go ahead. - Davey Crockett via Walt Disney
     
  17. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Unless you are using 800 speed film or faster, put it through the carryon X-ray, and don't worry about it. The danger of X-ray damage is highly exaggerated. I'm much more concerned about inspectors handling my equipment or accidentally opening boxes of LF film.
     
  18. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Does anyone else here realize that the only alternative to doing what we do is to shoot digital?

    Really, folks, if you're so darned worried about the effect of carry-on x-rays on your film (assuming that you cannot convince the TSA person to hand-inspect) then switch to digital!

    By and large, the TSA folk will do a hand inspection upon request and send you on your merry way. But if they insist on doing an x-ray (or if you're in some non-US jurisdiction that requires such) then you really have only two choices:

    1) Let them x-ray your film, or

    2) Become a digishooter and stop worrying about it.

    Is there anything else to discuss on this topic?
     
  19. snegron

    snegron Member

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    Replace film for digital? Blasphemy! Where are those pitchforks and torches! :surprised:

    As for the TSA's, they are way too unpredictable no matter how nice you are to them. If they are having a bad day, you will pay the consequences regardless of your positive demeanor. In other words, don't count on TSA's handchecking your film because just out of spite they might refuse.

    I am sure I speak for many here when I say that X rays of our exposed film worries us, especially if the images are of any value. Our concerns stem from previous magazine articles and past bad experiences.

    Yes, there have probably been advances in X ray technology (I would not know if this is a true statement or not because I have not read about any "alleged" advances in X ray technology recently), but there have also been advances in film technology making emulsion more sensitive and accurate than ever seen before. How do our new, wonderful films react to X rays? We have had Kodachrome for years and know how it will react, but what about Fuji Astia or Provia? What about Porta 400VC? What about Ilford Delta Pro 400 (yes, it is B&W film, but who knows?)?
     
  20. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Interested readers want to know!!

    1) So if I carry a roll or rolls of 120 film in my shirt pocket, will the metal detectors go off?

    2) When TSA inspects a roll or rolls of 120 film do they tear open the foil wrapper(s)?

    I just started using 120 film again and I would like to know before I leave 24 February.

    Steve
     
  21. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I've walked through a metal detector with at least 20 rolls of TX 120 on my person (cargo pants, safari shirt with big pockets) and haven't had it go off. The wrapper is mylar, not foil, and the spools are plastic. If you're bulging out all over, though, they may ask you to put it through the X-ray.

    Despite all those past articles about possible X-ray damage, those of us who fly with some frequency have some experience in this, and in all these threads about X-ray damage, you rarely see anyone posting a credible example of X-ray damage.

    If you're really concerned, buy film on location if possible and have it processed locally or ship your film ahead and ship it back.

    You can also use lead film bags. Usually, if I put my film in a lead bag to reduce exposure on a trip where there will be multiple exposures, I'm not asked to remove it for X-ray, but occasionally it's happened, and I've let the film go through with no consequences.