Flying with Large Format

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by James Bleifus, Oct 16, 2004.

  1. James Bleifus

    James Bleifus Member

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    Hi Everyone,

    I'm going to Vegas next month (or really, Lake Mead near Vegas) and will be flying for the first time with my LF gear. Usually I travel very light with only carry-on luggage, so this will be a new experience for me. I'll be carrying a Super-Trekker II full of equipment and a Ries tripod, which I'm expecting to have to check. Does anyone have suggestions about how to avoid having my equipment damaged, or, for that matter, is that even a real concern? Thanks!

    Cheers,

    James
     
  2. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    What size do you shoot, I carry on my 4 x 5 gear all the time in a pelican 1500 case, which is the right size to fit under the seat or the overhead, my tripod is always checked in a heavy cardboard mailing tube with no problems, I have also flown with my 8x10 gear, the case I use for it, I purchased at home depot for $20.00, nice hard case with padding.

    Dave Parker
    Satin Snow(TM) Ground Glass
     
  3. Sjixxxy

    Sjixxxy Member

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    I'll have to remember that. Lats time I flew with my tripod I just dissaembled it and threw it in my checked suitcase. Result, the button I need to push to release the QRPlate broke off.
     
  4. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    Hi Kip,

    I picked the heavy cardbord tube up at Office Depot, it has worked out great, I used to take mine apart as well and it always seemed like something happened, since I have used the tube I have not had a problem, I take the head off put it in checked baggage and then the tripod in the tube with foam at each end.....works out great.

    Dave Parker
    Satin Snow(TM) Ground Glass
     
  5. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    even better, when I flew to Washington state, I had these boxes left from flowers.com Hubby had sent me flowers in them. Well they fit my tripod perfectly, and I added a little wadded newspaper. I got to the airport, and after it was inspected and ready to be put on the conveyor belt, I took out my handy dandy roll of duct tape, taped the box around the middle. Both direction i went smoothly, The box has stickers now, but not even a dent. It was that nice and heavy to protect the flowers. So morale, send your significant other some roses, and keep the box. You win two ways.

    The super trekker will not fit as carry on. I would take all my clothes and such and stuff in it. Then take a small carryon suitcase, wrap socks around things or underwear. this would protect the things, and you can carry your camera and such on the airplane.

    Vegas is the most film unfriendly place I have encountered in all of my travels. Make sure you have a current copy of the law that allows you the right to have your film hand inspected. They will still refuse to do it. This they did long before 9/11. If you are there early enough, you can then step out of line, and ask for the airport supervisor. When you present the problem to them, (this post 9/11) you will be allowed to have your film hand inspected.
     
  6. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    Other than 35mm, I don't carry film on flights anylonger, I just ship to my location with delivery guarantee 5 days before I leave and then ship back on return, I always take it to the post office open and then pack there after they look at it, so it does not have to be x-rayed, I got really tired of fighting with the inspectors, even when I had the rules in print with me, and I agree Vegas is the worst airport I have been in, the people there are jerks and always have been.

    Dave Parker
    Satin Snow(TM) Ground Glass
     
  7. mikewhi

    mikewhi Member

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    1) I aways carry on my LF camera and lenses and anything really valuable. I have a Ries cloth bag lines with sheeps wool for my tripod. I check it as it's really big and even airport guys would have a hard time losing it.

    2) I always process on location, so I take basic equipment and chemicals in checked baggage. If it's a really short trip, I'll FedEx it home. FedEx insists that if it's marked 'film' that it won't get x-rayed. Even so, I have never had a problem with film fogging (slow speed b&W anyway) because of x-ray - has anyone?

    Basically, with a $3500 8x10, yep I'm keeping it in my sight as well as the lenses, meter, etc.

    Also, I load film on location. I always seem to be able to darken a room or bathroom and load at night. No changing bags\tents.

    -Mike
     
  8. Dave H.

    Dave H. Member

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    I have flown to PNG and Cyprus (twice) from Sydney (Australia) with LF gear.

    5x4 on the 1st trip to Cyprus, 8x10 from then on.

    I get my:
    Kodak Master (8x10)
    4 Double Darks's
    2 lenses (300M and a 210 Claron)
    tripod head (arca)
    filters/cables/hoods/tape measure/lightmeter
    2 repacked boxes of film (50 sheet boxes hold 100 sheets ++ each)

    all into a carry on shoulder bag (a $15 surplus cotton bag- camera +DD's sit vertical). send it straight through the carry on Xray (many times, fortepan 200 and TriX).

    The old gitzo goes into the rucksack wrapped in a pair of pants and a few shirts/darkcloth. If that bag goes missing I'm sure I can work something out quickly where ever I am. Having the camera/lenses/film disappear would take WAY more time/money/effort to sort out.

    Through Bangkok, Greece, Australia, PNG, Cyprus and Bahrain I have had no problems with the airport security/screening.

    To have a Supertrekker II full of gear... you must be hauling a HUGE amount of stuff!

    If you need to check it.... hardcase (pelican, lightware etc). The home depot thing might be less 'photographic'.... ie $$$$ inside.

    an good article (and this guy seems to carry hella big/heavy/bulky stuff):

    http://www.largeformatphotography.info/travel/lftravel.html

    good luck.
    D.
     
  9. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I've flown in and out of Vegas a few times with LF equipment.

    I always carry my film on and usually let it go through the X-ray with my equipment, and haven't had problems with that. I'm more concerned about inspectors inadvertantly exposing film or mishandling equipment, and I find if I check things that seem to bring about inspections (cable releases that resemble syringes, rangefinder cams that can look like blades or scissors), I'm more likely to get my equipment through the X-ray without an additional check.

    My Tech V 4x5" travels in a Crumpler Fux Deluxe. The 8x10" Gowland PocketView goes in a knapsack designed for laptop computers. I have a 4x5" Gowland PocketView that usually lives in an older Perrin Vanguard case, which can hold the camera set up and ready to shoot, but sometimes I'll put it in something smaller if I'm traveling. I've also had it in an f/64 case.

    I've checked my tripod many times in a medium-sized Tenba TTP case, usually with the head attached, handles loose or removed.

    If you want to buy film on location call Casey's Camera (they're in the phone book), which stocks LF film and can order it in sizes they don't normally carry, if you give them enough notice.
     
  10. James Bleifus

    James Bleifus Member

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    A 5X7 Eastman #2. In fact, I'll be ordering a groundglass from you soon.

    Ah, I'll pack my camera as carry-on and pack my clothes in the Trekker. Makes so much more sense then my approach and it never would have occurred to me. I've dealt with the Vegas security before but thanks for the tip on having the regs with me. I'm looking forward to waiving them in securitys' faces.
    No, I don't really have a lot of stuff (camera, two lenses, dark clothe, 300 sheets of film, 10 holders, meter, tripod, filters and misc. stuff) but I'll be doing a lot of hiking over the petrified sand dunes. If it's anything like my hikes along the coast I'll spend a lot of time teetering on sandstone for balance so I like to keep my camera packed away rather than on my shoulder. The Super Trekker is the only pack I have and I got it so I'd have something to grow into . Plus, I'm REALLY bad at packing so I know I take up more space then I should.

    Thanks David. That would have been a good idea. Too bad I've already ordered my film.

    Thanks to everyone for the suggestions.

    Cheers,

    James
    __________________
     
  11. James Bleifus

    James Bleifus Member

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    Dave, I went back and reread my original post and now understand what you mean. I was sloppy with my description. I should have just said "Super Trekker II with gear." And thanks for the pointer to the LF.info site.

    Cheers,

    James
     
  12. sanking

    sanking Member

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    I made several trips to Spain with ULF equipment prior to 9/11. For many reasons that is not feasible today so if you want to get this kind of equipment to across the pond you should ship it to a friend.

    Since 9/11 I have flown quite a number if times with my 5X7 Nagaoka outfit, which fits in a Tenba backpack. I carry the camera, lenses and a few holders on my back, and all fim and holders in a second smaller handbag that I carry on board. I simply allow the film to run through the baggage inspection screener because to ask for a hand check will likely result in more trouble than it is worth. Fortunately I have never seen any damage to B&W film from this. I got stuck in Houston on a return trip from Oaxaca earlier this year and because of numerous delays and cancellations my film (TMAX-400) wound up going through the screener 9-10 times there alone, but when I developed it there was no sign of damage.

    I carry some equipment, such as the tripod, in checked luggage.

    Sandy
     
  13. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Good ideas. I travel with my 4x5 gear all the time, in fact, I just returned from my 5th trip to Australia, shooting LF. I carry all my gear in a LowePro bag, which I wear as a back pack - gear consisting of a Toyo 45AII, 3 LF lenses, a Nikon and two Nikon lenses, as well as two boxes of Fuji Ready Loads. I generally only shoot ReadyLoads, although I shot some Efke PL100 on this last trip. My tripod goes in my checked luggage, wrapped in bubble wrap. I've made trips all over the world using this system and have encounted very little problems - except in Melbourne, Australia (of all places). I would follow Dave's advice if travelling domestically - ship your film via FedEx.
     
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  15. Timothy

    Timothy Member

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    Flying with stuff

    James, I am an airline pilot, I have flown for Air Canada for 15 years, and I am a 4x5 enthusiast.

    N E V E R check any baggage or parcel that you would not confidently launch off of the highest part of you house, then have it dragged on a long chain behind a large 4x4 on gravel and potholes, then left out in a pouring rain for hours.

    This is N O T an exaggeration !!

    I have the AW Pro Trekker, and I leave only a few small items in it, compress it, and pack it in checked baggs. Then I have the camera and lenses with me as carry-on. Forget Film. I mean as far as airports go. My advice is just forget the whole business of arguing or believing anything that anyone said could be done ... just Forget Film. It is not safe anywhere you carry it and it is not worth the hassle. Do some research ahead of time and buy film when you get to Vegas. Then have the negs developed before you leave or make arrangements for a darkroom.

    I am sorry to be the bearer of such rotten news, but it is the truth.

    For what it is worth, if any of you are ever traveling around Toronto, and are in a similar predicament, please let me know and I can make my darkroom available if it will help.

    Tim R
     
  16. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Tim,

    Many people I know have not experienced any problem over the past year or so with film going through the screener. Have the machines used to screen carry-on luggage changed recently in such a way that they present more danger to film than year or two ago?

    Sandy King
     
  17. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    As of 2 years ago there was only one store that sold anything other than 35mm film in Vegas. I doubt it has gotten better. Other option is to have it shipped to your first motel. you willl be better off.
     
  18. jandc

    jandc Member

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    We have flown all over the US and the world with significant quantities of film. When passed through the cary on X-Ray machinery there has never been a problem. At one time when I was traveling to Las Vegas on business often I put a couple of rolls of 400 film in my bag and left it there for several months. After 14 round trips and over 35 runs throughthe machine we could see no damage in the negatives. The carry on machines are very low dose. There is no reason to believe that they will damage B&W film.

    Las Vegas had a hard time for a while after 911 and there were many horror stories that went on about the screening process. The last few times we have flown in and out there have been no problems.

    Just let them scan everything and it will be fine.
     
  19. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    I have several horror stories of the Vegas airport (McCarren) all before 9/11. If it wasn't me, it was someone who was flying with me. One time a bunch of us gave up and rented a car to drive back to Salt lake City.

    Good news is that in a few years there will be an alternative for those going to the national parks. St. George is building a new large scale airport that will take the pressure off the Vegas airport that can't expand further.
     
  20. James Bleifus

    James Bleifus Member

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    Tim, thanks for the tips. It's obvious I was going to give the baggage handlers too much credit in handling my gear, but you and the other APUGers have helped me out. I'll definitely be carrying on my camera and lenses.

    Film is more problematic. Shipping the film worries me because, if it gets lost, my whole trip goes down the drain. I don't have any real desire to spend more than a few hours in Vegas and that's only to see a Van Gogh and a Monet in one of the hotels. Otherwise it's just not my kind of town. On the other hand, my whole trip is ruined if my film is ruined by the airport x-rays. So I guess the big question for me is whether anyone on APUG has had their film ruined by X-ray in an American airport since 911?

    Cheers,

    James
     
  21. James Bleifus

    James Bleifus Member

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    Thanks John.
     
  22. MarcoF

    MarcoF Member

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    Ciao
    if you'd like to process your sheets in LV you have to know that there's only one lab which process 4x5 and 8x10 sheet films, it's Color Reflections, 4600 South Polaris Avenue, Phone 702-262-9300, it's very easy to find, it's close to the Tropicana Avenue and I-15 intersection...

    Marco
     
  23. Timothy

    Timothy Member

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    Carry-On Scanners

    I guess I should clarify that my opinion regarding film is just that - my opinion. As you can see from the comments above, experiences vary widely. This may be due to a little know fact about those scanners - they are variable and adjustable by the operator. If something on the belt goes by that they are unsure of, they usually just crank it up until they think they have it figured out.
    ..... Put yourself in their shoes for a second..... "this thingy is a mystery to me, do I ask the nice passenger to open the bag for me - thereby stopping the whole line and all the other nice passengers - or do I just crank up this dial here until I can see it for myself ?" ......

    The other thing that is never understood by the travelling public about those security stations in general is that all of their policies work pretty much the same way - adjustable. In other words there are policies established but ultimately if one security person claims to have a suspicion, there is really no limit to what they can do to resolve the issue to their own satisfaction. And you have to remember, it is their satisfaction that matters. Add to this, the economic environment for the airline industry in general, which basically means everyone is trying to 'squeeze ten gallons into a five gallon pail" - overworked, not enough resources for every job that everyone on the airport has to do, angry management, angry passengers (FWIW every single person working there agrees with the passengers and sympathizes - we are all just way too numbed for it to show any more)...

    After three days at work I come home and take my camera out to the Niagra Escarpment and walk and walk and walk, and then set up the tripod and watch the sun coming down through the tops of the trees.....


    What happens at security at the airport is a complete crap shoot. I prefer not to take chances.

    "There are bold pilots, and there are old pilots...."


    Tim R
     
  24. jandc

    jandc Member

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    The X-ray dosage does not change when they crank up the scanner, it is fixed. What they do is adjust the gain on the sensor. In other words they change the speed of the "film".
     
  25. wfwhitaker

    wfwhitaker Member

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    I am an air traffic controller. We work pretty much the same way. :smile:

    Occupations aside, I generally send film FedEx or Priority Mail to myself to avoid the airport hassles (at least the photography-related ones). No system is perfect, but it's worked for me so far.

    Best,
    Will
     
  26. James Bleifus

    James Bleifus Member

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    Thanks to everyone who offered advice. I took film, camera, holders and meter on the plane as carry-on and. now that I've developed some of the film, I know the traveling went without a hitch.

    A funny side note. One of the young security guards couldn't figure out what he was seeing as he was looking at my camera through the X-ray. One of the more mature guards had to come and explain how the film went in the holder which went into the camera, etc. before they'd cut me loose. I got a kick out of it.

    Thanks again to everyone.

    Cheers,

    James