Travelling with large format

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by TheFlyingCamera, Sep 8, 2006.

  1. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Well, I´ve gone and done it. I´m now in Argentina, dragging the Canham 5x7 across Buenos Aires. This thing draws more attention than a 20 lb barrel of honey draws flies. Wow... Every place I´ve hauled it out, I´ve been approached by people asking a jillion questions about it. Also, just about everywhere I´ve taken int out, I´ve been approached within minutes by security guards of some kind or other, asking if it is being used professionally. ( I guess they get that idea from the tripod ). Good news, though, every one so far has bought the excuse that I´m just a crazy amateur who enjoys torturing himself carrying 30 lbs of camera gear around for kicks. Just remember this as your official mantra when on the road overseas with large format: " I´m just an amateur, on vacation". Say that four times slowly, in the worst diction, grammar and pronunciation possible in the local language.
    Actually, better to be able to converse in the local dialect with some degree of fluency - I suspect a working knowledge of Spanish has saved my fat from the fire at least twice today.

    Funny, when I was on my way back to my hotel this afternoon, I stopped in this Buenos Aires Design shopping mall where they have a whole bunch of home decor stores, looking for a coke or something cold to drink. I got stalked by a security guard who approached me and warned me that it was prohibited to take photos inside the mall. I told him I was just carrying my gear, and looking for a place to sit for a moment. He then walked away and was fine.

    I went both today and yesterday to Recoleta cemetery, which is a photographers paradise. You could easily spend a week in there and just scratch the surface. This is the place I want to go when I die, as if you can get in, you will truly live forever there. Between the locals and the tourists, there´s a crowd in there all day every day. There are tombs dating back to the early 1820s, and some rare few that look like they were just built recently. There are some monuments that are nothing more than a headstone inside an iron fence, and then there are some that rival Napoleon´s crypt in Paris. Heck, they don´t rival. They supercede.

    Yesterday, I also went to La Boca, which is this famous slum in Buenos Aires, known for the brightly decorated houses made of corrugated tin. This neighborhood could also be a Large Format photographers paradise, because of the textures of things, but not for someone to wander by their lonesome. It is still a rough lower class neighborhood, and you´d stand out like a sore thumb there with ANY kind of camera. I shot there with my 35mm (contax G1) which worked out quite well. Another day, when I have someone to watch my back, I want to go shoot the abandoned ships on the river. Maybe tomorrow, with a friend of mine who lives here and has promised to take me out shopping and things.
     
  2. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Have a great trip. Looking forward to seeing some of your work when you return.
     
  3. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Robert-

    I did shoot COLOR of all things, in the 35mm. There is some good news out there at least in this front. Here in Argentina, it is very easy to get good, inexpensive color development. Kodak just about owns the market here. I got three rolls developed and printed, 5x7 prints, AND a CD of each roll, for $30 total.
     
  4. colrehogan

    colrehogan Member

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    Sounds like you're having a lot of fun. Looking forward to seeing some great pics when you get back.
     
  5. Sportera

    Sportera Member

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    Sounds like a great time.

    I am traveling at the end of the month and wanted to bring my 4x5, however Southwest airlines only allows bags of 10x14x22 dimensions as carry on. My photo Trekker is bigger than that. My plan right now is to pack the 4x5 in a smaller bag (a Domke F1x) and check the big back pack, also pack my tripod in my checked luggage.

    How did you get your gear on the plane? Any tips?
     
  6. athanasius80

    athanasius80 Member

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    Go to a milonga for me! Last time I did LF travel I threw my 4x5 in my backpack and called it a day.
     
  7. colivet

    colivet Member

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    Great to hear you are doing great i Argentina. You are making me feel nostalgic! I've been to the Recoleta cemetery and it is amazing. It is like a neiborhood for the dead. A little like a mini walled city that opens to tourists and locals daily.

    Yes, go a milonga. Eat empanadas, pizza and beef. Come back home a couple of pounds heavier and share the photographs.
     
  8. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I got all my 5x7 kit (the Canham, five lenses, light meter, darkcloth, and loupe) in a Pelican backpack/bag that fits inside one of their 1550 series hard cases (just in case there was a problem). The film holders and tripod went in my suitcase. The film went in another over-the-shoulder bag that was my 2nd carryon. It went flawlessly. I just had that strange experience with the customs inspector who wanted to know how much my camera cost. One good thing, everyone looking at it thinks it must be ancient, so nobody bothers me about is it new and am I bringing in goods to resell.

    I´ve done the beef, and done the pizza. Haven´t been to a milonga or had an empanada yet. Probably this weekend. Tried to go to Cafe Tortoni tonight, but the line was out the door and around the block. I´ll save it for a weeknight or something. Tomorrow is San Telmo Antiques Fair, and hopefully some camera shopping, as there are supposed to be some old camera dealers in the neighborhood around the fair.
     
  9. Stewart Skelt

    Stewart Skelt Member

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    Earlier this year I went to Italy (from Australia) with a Horseman 45FA, Hasselblad 500CM, EOS 3, and several lenses for each. Every component with glass in it (lenses, Horseman back, Hasselblad and Canon bodies) went into my Photo Trekker backpack, with large quantities of film. Everything else, included the Horseman body without back, went into the checked luggage. It survived.
     
  10. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    "I´ve done the beef, and done the pizza. Haven´t been to a milonga or had an empanada yet. Probably this weekend"

    My recollections of Argentina include the beef, tomatoes that really have flavor, and medoc.
     
  11. jonpiper

    jonpiper Member

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    I see Argentina in my future soon... and bringing LF would be fairly likely for me. Please do share some photos when you return.

    Thanks! Jon
     
  12. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I´ll say that Buenos Aires is doable, even with LF, IF you know some Spanish. I think I would have gotten in more trouble with the security guards had I not spoken better than functional Spanish. I think it helps me get away with a lot. It´s actually a pretty good feeling, being able to blend. Everyone knows when I speak that I´m not from HERE, but they´re not sure where I´m from. Nobody so far has guessed off the bat that I´m an American.

    I did some wandering around the San Telmo antiques neighborhood, and found a few interesting cameras, including a stereoscopic camera that shoots two images on glass plates in these strange little plate holders. The dealer wanted $650 for it, so I´m pretty sure I´m not going to take the plunge, but another dealer had a couple of wood cameras that take glass plates, including what looks like a 6 1/2 by 8 1/2 or maybe even 7x11 ish. There was one more I´m thinking about asking about again when I go back tomorrow, since it was a large format (looks like about 5x7 size) stereo camera, complete with lenses. They also had a Canon 7 rangefinder with the F0.95 50mm lens. Didn´t ask the price on that one either, but that was tempting too. Otherwise, cameras other than crappy folders or twin lens reflexes, and images other than 1950s picture postcards and the odd carte de visite are also extremely few and far between.

    I´ll be shooting more tomorrow with the 5x7 I think, and then maybe Monday I´ll pop over to Uruguay to visit Colonia. Colonia promises to be an LF´ers paradise with its 18th century town center. Had I more time, I think I´d like to try and visit this auto garage that is a bit outside the center of town which specializes in the antique cars that are so popular in Uruguay to this day.

    In San Telmo, I saw an antiques shop that specialized in cars, including a genuine Bugatti, an original 1946 Lincoln Continental, a Delage phaeton, and a red 1963 Jaguar XK-E. That was the first real Bugatti that I´ve been that close to. Wow.
     
  13. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Have I mentioned before how much attention you get when travelling with large format? Let me reinforce this lesson. You will get LOTS of attention. LOTS. Including invitations to exhibit your work, and TV interviews. Today, while I was out bumming around the San Telmo neighborhood with the Canham, I had a man approach me and invite me to participate in an international exhibition, and I got interviewed on Argentinian TV. Plus the dozen or so other conversations I had with people who observed the camera and wanted to know if it was old, could I still get film for it, etc.
     
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  15. jonpiper

    jonpiper Member

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    Sounds like a cool trip.

    Well, I don't know if I'd describe my Spanish as better than functional, but I do know a little. Hopefully enough to stay out of trouble (or maybe just enogh to get into trouble).
     
  16. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Another tip, although this may well be just repeating the obvious, for anyone who has already travelled before with camera gear.

    The road is NOT the place to learn the ins and outs of your gear. Be INTIMATELY acquainted with your equipment, every function and quirk, before you go. Have your working method down pat, or you´ll be spending too much time setting up the camera, and not seeing what the camera can see.

    I got my Canham about a month before I hit the road with it, and got to shoot it maybe four or five times before I left. While I was comfortable with it, it is still not routine to use, especially because the Canham works a little differently than my other cameras. Nothing I can´t get used to, but it is still a hassle. Knowing this, I´ll not wait until a month before my next trip to get a new major piece of gear. Lens? not as big a deal, but still, better to have shot with it before you hit the road, to make sure it gives you what you´re looking for. Only little accessories can be taken for granted.
     
  17. Rolleiflexible

    Rolleiflexible Member

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    If you have a spare moment, you should try to visit Pablo Kolodny while you're in Buenos Aires. Pablo is a LF and MF shooter -- very talented, and a forceful character. You can find his website at www.pablokolodny.com, you can email him at pkolodny@fibertel.com.ar, and his website gives his phone number as 011 54 11 4552-9696.

    If you do contact him, please tell him that Sanders from New York sent you and give him my best regards.

    Travel well!

    Sanders
     
  18. trhull

    trhull Member

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    Argentina

    You didn't mention the red wine and bife a caballo and dulce de leche!!
     
  19. frugal

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    Just thought I'd chime in on this one, not that I've travelled with LF before but I think it applies regardless of format. Whenever I'm travelling I always make sure to do a thorough gear check before I leave. Preferably, do this with enough time to replace/repair anything that isn't working properly. But, barring that, it can at least help you make some decisions as to what to take or catch problems before you use a faulty piece of equipment to take that priceless once in a lifetime shot.

    For instance, before going on one trip I found that the aperture blades on my 85mm lens (for 35mm gear) were sticking. So that stayed home and the 90mm macro went in its place.

    I wouldn't even rely on little accesories working properly, test it all. Now granted, you don't really need to familiarise yourself with the use of them like you suggest, but still test them.
     
  20. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Some more notes on travel in this part of the world, not necessarily specific to LF:

    - The sun is in the NORTH sky, which is a bit confusing at first.
    - at this time of year, the sun is at a low enough angle that you can still shoot interesting light at noon.
    - Once again, travelling with large format will turn you into a rock star. I went to Colonia, across the river from Buenos Aires in Uruguay, and had an old man see me photographing his street, so he came over to talk a little, then ran into his house to bring out his 1900 vintage Voigtlander plate camera to show me, that his grandfather had brought from Europe. I had a Mexican photography fan and box camera collector ask me for my website. He has a collection of over 150 Brownies and variants thereof. A mime saw me setting up to take his photo, and expressed (in the way only a mime can express) surprise and pleasure that I was NOT going to charge HIM to take his photo. I also had people come up and photograph me using the 5x7. That was a strange feeling, being a tourist attraction myself.

    Colonia is a neat little day trip from Buenos Aires. It´s probably worth an overnight, not just a day, as there are enough things to see and shoot around the town. Walking from the ferry dock into town, there are some neat old railroad buildings, including an old roundhouse that has been converted into a conference center, with the accompanying turntable still intact out front. The old station building has been converted into the Colonia Culinary and Hospitality Institute. Colonia is peppered with old cars in varying states of repair, and lots of quaint single-story stuccoed 18th century houses, cobblestone streets, and a pretty, plain church.
     
  21. MikeM1977

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    The one thing I don't like about large-format photography is the attention I draw. I can handle the weight and all the other disadvantages. I don't like being approached constantly, or drawing attention from people passing by.
     
  22. roteague

    roteague Member

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    How difficult would it be to travel around that part of the world if you don't speak Spanish?
     
  23. TheFlyingCamera

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    In Buenos Aires, not too big a deal. Lots of people there speak english. Same with most tourist destinations. However, get a little off the beaten track, and you would definitely come up short without some knowledge of the language. You might have difficulty even in Buenos Aires with the occasional cab driver, or someone working somewhere that is not in a tourism related industry, like a drugstore or some of the cyber cafes.

    The Cybercafes are almost omnipresent. It seems like this is the way most people down in Argentina (and perhaps much of Latin America) get access to the internet. They are quite cheap, but it will be hit or miss as to the services they offer and the level of support they can give. Most places have file attaching blocked, so I have been unable to post any photos so far. Some places have very strict parental controls in place. I have a subscription to Match.com, and I got an email from them. When I tried to read it, the parental control system kicked in and informed me that it was blocked and I could not read it at that terminal. Match.com is hardly pornography, so I was suprised they had it locked down that tight.
     
  24. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Thanks a lot, I'm looking forward to hearing more about your trip when you get back. Sorry, to hear that you are having such problems connecting.
     
  25. TheFlyingCamera

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    The problem is not finding a place to get online, it´s just a question of what services which cafes offer. Lots of cybercafes have the CD drive completely disabled. Some have parental controls in place. Nobody has blocked APUG, however :smile: It`s just a hit-or-miss thing you`ll find with getting online down here. Also, another thing, I have found very few places where the keyboards are consistent. Some have the @ sign on the keyboard as an alt-q, others it is alt gr - 2 (alt gr is a key that is not on english keyboards). Sometimes they even have US English keyboards, but that have been reprogrammed for the Spanish keyset. My pinkie is getting carpal tunnel from trying to re-learn the location for the dash/underscore.
     
  26. walter23

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    Ahh, lucky you. I spent a month in BsAs earlier this year (it was winter down there, and the friend I stayed with is too lazy to heat his apartment, so it was like urban camping). Great city. It was a huge hassle finding anything specific when I wanted it though; seems the city is divided into districts where shops that sell only very specific types of merchandise can be found. The only things I could ever find when I needed them were taxis, locutorios, and kioskos. Good luck if you need to buy an umbrella but happen to be in the vacuum cleaner district, or the light fixture district :smile: I guess knowing more than my basic tourist spanish would have helped here.

    If you're still there, try to get out of the city for a few days. I'd recommend at the very least the ferry ride across the river to Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. (see buquebus website, http://www.buquebus.com ). You can make a day trip of it, and I recommend taking the fast ferry out (1 hr trip) and the slow ferry back (3 hour trip), because this lets you stay in Uruguay the longest (the slow ferry back leaves later than the fast one). Border formalities are nothing to worry about, and the town is beautiful. Going north to Iguazu national park is also a very good idea.

    BTW, you can get nice views and photos of the bsas skyline if you head to the ecological park (in costanera sur? something like that - at the far right of the map if you have a pocket Guia-T to refer to). Lots of tall grasses and lagoons to decorate the foreground with.

    I got kind of weary of the place after a full month of being on vacation there, but man I sure miss it now. Oh to taste a revolting lukewarm pancho again, or eat a massive slab of tenderloin with an expensive bottle of wine for like $20.
     
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