Fogged films though airport Xray / customs control

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by rbourayou, Jun 28, 2011.

  1. rbourayou

    rbourayou Member

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    Hello there,
    I just wanted to share my experience dealing with fogged films while travelling/moving.

    Background
    I made an overseas moving from Europe to Brazil, and given the price and scarcity of the films here (R$35 for a TriX, makes about 12 EUR, was "only" 3.50 EUR in Germany...), I packed about 40 films in the boxes that I sent through DHL. The boxes needed 3 weeks to arrive. And I stored the films in the fridge since then.

    The films were all 35mm, of type TriX 400, HP5+ 400, Neopan 400.
    Due to the difficulty to get some chemistry here, I brought some Xtol and a powder fixer (Calbe).

    After development, the films came out with a loss of contrast, the negative showing a good illumination but the celluloid being dark gray.
    I first suspected a chemical interaction with the chlorine-rich water from the tap or a temperature mistake. I did other developments using Xtol dissolved in distilled water. The problem remained..

    I noticed that two films, developed in the same soup and conditions, were absolutely ok. These films were not in the boxes that I sent, but came with me inside the plane, and although they were subject to Xray at the border control because they were in my hand luggage, they developed finely.

    Possible explanation
    I suspect that the Xrays strength is higher on customs control for merchandise than the one use for the passengers belongings. I don't remember where, but I read this once on the net...

    Another possibility, which I assume less probable, would be fogging through heating of the films during the transportation (about 3 weeks). But I can hardly imagine this... But this would explain why there is no sine-wave fogging pattern on the films. Again, the celluloid develops uniformly dark.

    Scanning
    The fogged films are hard to scan (Canon 8800F). I did get better results with the Canon software than with Silverfast Ai.
    I imagine that it would be a nightmare to get a decent print.

    Solution?
    Sorry, I have no solution. It seems like these films are lost...
    To get a better scan, I changed the agitation to a more hard one. This pushes the contrast, alas, but I suppose it's better to have deeper darks to give a counterweight to the overall enhanced density of the film.
    I still did not scan the last batch, but the negative already looks better.

    Now I travel with films in my hand luggage.
    I read that leaving the film in the camera makes the chance of fogging soar, due to Xray diffraction/focussing because of the metal. Last year, this happened to me in Munich, although I was certified with emphasis from the personnel that it was completely safe.
    Now, I take the film off the camera (if time is given) before passing the border control. I pack the films in a separate tray, not with my backpack or any metal object. I hope that, as I have heard, some Xray machines modulate the radiation power according to the load. But putting the film alone in a tray, I hope to reduce their Xray exposure. On the contrary to US and european border paranoia, some agents here were kind enough to proceed only to a visual inspection, thus avoiding "Xray-ing" the films. Explaining the needs calmly and allowing the agents to manipulate the camera ("Wow! vintage!") helps a lot. There are sometimes comprehensive souls.


    I hope this experience will help someone that, unfortunately, is in a similar situation.
    Any suggestion/commentary?
     
  2. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    Customs xray can be pretty strong, they scan shipping containers. They also use gamma scans too iirc.

    Solution? Farmers Reducer, at least give it a go on the ruined negs, nothing to lose.


    You can get xray-reducing bags online too. Pack your stuff in that next time.

    http://www.customs.gov.au/site/page4315.asp

    Looks like it's a narrowly focussed beam too for the hand held scanners.


    edit: X-Ray strength:
    "C E F O P E R A T I N G P R O C E S S
    CEFs scan a truck carrying one or more shipping containers. The
    process involves the truck parking in the scanning hall and the driver
    entering a shielded waiting room
    for the duration of the x-ray scan.
    The x-ray housing, incorporating the linear accelerator and detector
    array, passes across the container on a rail-type system at a rate of
    10 metres per minute. The truck cabin is not x-rayed in this process.
    A six million electron volt (MeV) linear accelerator is used in the x-ray
    scanning process in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. In Fremantle,
    a truck mounted mobile inspection system is used which comprises
    a 2.5 MeV linear accelerator. In Adelaide, the container is unpacked
    and the cargo put through a 2.5 MeV dual view pallet x-ray system"


    High power US scanners for people are 60,000 to 105,000 electron volts (ev) or 60 to 100 kilovolt peak (KVP) (apparently).



    Here's an attenuation chart:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Photon_Mass_Attenuation_Coefficients.png
    [​IMG]


    I suggest airplane + some kind of lined bag, you can get lead lined bags.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 28, 2011
  3. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    It sounds to me like it is very possible that your film got badly cooked on the way over. X-ray damage usually does more than just adding an even layer of fog.

    Your only real step to get the film usable would be to figure out just how much fog is there, and expose to get above it. With the long straight lines of new films, this can be quite possible to do, if the fog truly is even (and not too thick).
     
  4. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    2F/2F; the slow pass scanning should average/phase out the wave pattern though?
     
  5. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Maybe. I don't know.
     
  6. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    Re: Lead Bags - Silver has a similar attenutation level to lead for X-Rays.. fully developed sheet film stuck together in a few layers in the inside of a bag would be good too.


    In any case, here is Kodak's word with specific examples from specific machines.
    http://www.kodak.com/global/en/service/tib/tib5201.shtml
     
  7. Leigh Youdale

    Leigh Youdale Member

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    Sorry, but you're screwed. At least, the film is. I'm surprised you weren't aware of this as the topic has been repeatedly covered in photographic forums over many years now. There's very little you can do to overcome the damage. It's permanent.
    Rule 1. The x-ray devices used on checked baggage and/or freight are MUCH more powerful than the devices used to check your carry-on baggage and will certainly damage your film. Guaranteed. Had it happen to me at Heathrow once and it made me quite paranoid for a while. Have since proved to myself that ISO400 (or lower) film in carry-on luggage can stand quite a number of passes passes without showing any effects. ISO 3200 is more problematic.
    Rule 2. If you conceal your film in lead lined bags it will protect them from the x-rays but not the subsequent hand inspection. If the package is unaccompanied it may be opened for inspection. And may still then be put through the x-rays after the film is removed from the lead lined bag. If they don't open it then they'll possibly subject it to several passes through the machine whilst trying to identify what it is.
    Rule 4. If a lead lined bag is in your hand luggage it will likely receive several passes through the x-ray device before it, and you, are pulled aside and you are requested to open your bags. The bag will just show up as a dense black shape but they'll try desperately to have the x-rays penetrate it. At that point you might, if lucky, be able to get a hand inspection of the film. Better to ask beforehand. It's amusing to watch operators trying to figure out what my harmonicas are when tightly packed together in my luggage. In India I was suspected of carrying plastic explosives. Now that WAS exciting!
    Rule 3. If you mail your films they may still be x-rayed. Not always, but parcels are subject to random x-ray checks.
     
  8. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    Lead-lined bags dont block X-Rays, just attenuate them, ie: reduce the power going through it. They can just ramp up the levels/gain digitally on their monitor, if denied hand-inspection.
     
  9. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    If the level of fog really is completely even, and not too dense, the film is still usable.
     
  10. rbourayou

    rbourayou Member

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    First of all thank you for posting, I appreciate having so many opinions!

    Athrivil and 2F/2F: Great info that you sent! It sounds pretty useless to send out some films then. I will now bring then in the airplane, as aforementioned. I renounced to use lead bag because of the issue raised by Leigh: the boxes had been opened at the customs, and I suppose that the dark mass of the lead bag on the screen of the Xray machine would have led to further irradiation. Leigh, you are right, it was a risk to send it in the freight. But I could not imagine crossing the border with 40 films in the backpack (+ laptop + 2 cameras..). But, hey, I tried my luck :wink:

    True! I have here and there a slight streak on the film, but until now what I have seen is pretty even.
    I just developed and scanned a TriX 400 that I had exposed slower, as 100 and 200 ASA, just to try. And it works, the scans are usable when the film is pulled during development. The 100 ASA images have denser blacks, they get scanned better. The celluloid seems also a bit lighter, probably due to the reduced time in the developer.
    It's ironical, I had brought these films for their good results when pushed in Xtol.... anyway...

    Thanks for all your suggestions and comments!
     
  11. Usagi

    Usagi Member

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    I learned my lesson about year ago when most of my films were badly fogged by the new x-ray device of the Narita Airport, Japan. Gone was most of the pictures I took during 2 month trip.

    All I can say is that I know the pain. And there's not much to do for films.

    I was stupid. I was aware that checked packages will be scanned with a more powerful scanner than a hand packages.
    But as I had for a years put some films on the checked packages without any problems, I thought that the danger is way too overstated.


    It was not. Especially at that moment when the new bomb scanning device was installed...


    The so called 'lead bags' are worth of nothing. The scanner will pass thru them easily.
    The lead bag should be really heavy if it would give protection. If you have X-ray'ed in the hospital or dentist, you know how heavy stuff the protecting lead is.

    The lead bags are just marketing hype.
     
  12. railwayman3

    railwayman3 Member

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    I read recently an account of the import, for restoration, of a vintage truck to the UK, by a guy who drove it from Germany. Apparently it was fully X-rayed for hidden compartments on arriving in the UK....so obviously some very powerful test gear is used.

    (He said he got a very blunt reply from the Customs guy when he asked if he could have the X-rays as a souvenir. :smile: )
     
  13. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    How keen are you on amateur home chemistry?




    They're not hype, no matter how thin, they attenuate (reduce) the signal. They are for onboard luggage/body scanners. The degree of attenuation drops more and more as the power of the scanner goes up, so it's a double edged sword..
     
  14. rbourayou

    rbourayou Member

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  15. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    There are packaging labels available warning not to X-ray, if you don't use them and mark the package as containing photographic film then you've done yourself no favours.

    Items are usually initially scanned with the same scanners as carry on baggage and only get sent for more invasive X-ray scans if suspect or ambiguous. Films need ideally to be packaged separately away from other items. Major airports are well aware that films get sent through the post and will take the necessary precautions if they aware they are in a package.

    Ian
     
  16. alef_fela

    alef_fela Member

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    I have just completed a UK->Slovenia->Turkey->UK trip with more than a handful of 120 film, alongside a Rolleicord in my hand luggage. At all check points I told them my film was sensitive to X-Rays, and requested hand inspection, which they did.

    Only in the UK they took an additional swab.
     
  17. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    I know you can get isopropyl at bigger supermarkets here in spray bottles and hardware shops.

    Well if youd like to experiment.. I've found halogen gases bleach like a rehal bleach..without washing out sensitising dyes etc, so you can gas out the fog (you only need very small amounts).

    Chlorine gas is easy to make but will knock out the silver iodide and bromide.. and bromide will knock out the iodide.. so you can iodine based gas.. iodine metal sublimates readily at room temperature, but my experiment with elemental bromine fumes at low temp; found it left bromine deposits on the film at 6-12c ("room" temp here atm) since it's below the b.p. for gas phase.


    Potassium Permanganate solution with some sulphuric acid catalyst will do it, add potassium iodide (100g on ebay is $17-$25 inc international shipping).

    Iodine won't knock out bromide halide, but should bleach silver to silver iodide to remove fog, might get full speed back, not sure how the extra iodide would affect the emulsion.



    Not sure how elemental iodine would fair as far as leaving deposits on the film at room temp, but you can set up a reaction to just produce HI gas instead of elemental iodine.

    Iodine escapes easily, as does bromine, leaving the tank with the lid off for a few days outside should let it escape off the film if it does.

    You just want a small amount of the solution in the bottom of a processing tank after loading your film, make sure the reel is suspended high enough so it doesn't get wet from the solution so the film stays dry (or put a second reel below it).


    Put the lid on the tank after pouring the mix (the lid will pop off if there is pressure, but I've found there hasn't been much with a small amount of chem, if you're paranoid, just sit the lid on top loosely).

    I found a few minutes was enough to bleach an entire fully developed film... so it should do as well for some fog just fine, take the lid off after some time and let the fumes/gas clear fully outside. You'll have to reload the film onto a reel with paper or canister in the dark bag for usage.


    Iodine shouldn't displace any other halides, so it'll bleach back the fog and not affect the rest of the emulsion... you'd have to test speed.. I think contrast will be changed with longer developing would be my assumption.




    Your other option might be SO2 gas, which you can make with sodium metabisulphite (steriliser/etc in the home brew section in the supermarket or home brew shop) mixed in water with citric acid (baking section) for easier to get chems, I dont think that should kick out halides (I haven't tried though), but it'll react with elemental silver to give silver sulphide or sulphate iirc... have to look it up.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 30, 2011
  18. Usagi

    Usagi Member

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  19. rbourayou

    rbourayou Member

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    It's been a long time... As chemistry is pretty hard to find here in the brazilian countryside, I tried to play with Rodinal concentration and the exposure of the films. It's the lazy way :wink:

    Just a small comment before: 2F/2F suggested that my films had been "badly cooked" during the journey, as there was no usual (sine or other) pattern to be found. I now tend to admit that this is right: the celluloid is uniformly dark in the wohloe batch of film I have been experimenting with in the last weeks.
    Pushing these films, involving longer times in the developer, only made the celluloid darker. So I tried to pull the films to get denser images on the darker background. And I reduced the concentration of Rodinal to 1:75. Here some results:

    TriX: hopeless, celluloid too dark. Films exposed at 100ASA and developed with Xtol or Rodinal (down to 1:75) are barely scanable.
    HP5+: Usable at 100ASA, scanable. The celluloid is darker than should be, but scanning is possible. Performed badly in the sunlight, better contrast in shady conditions. Contrast is.. weird.
    Neopan400: seemed the most resistant to the heat wave, usable at 200ASA and Rodinal up to 1:50, though the loss of contrast os stronger that inherent to the pulling process.

    So "cooked Neopan or HP5" seem still usable with constrains, though I can not say anything about their ability to print well. A good scanner and some tweaking should make it.
     
  20. Stuggi

    Stuggi Member

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    A thing I've always wanted to try is to get a order in straight with Ilford, and have them pack a X-Ray sensitive sheet of film with the rest of my order. Then you can tell the security guys that they under no circumstances can scan your luggage. :smile: And if they scanned it, you'd know in an instant, just develop the X-ray sheet when your stuff arrives. :smile: