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  1. #1

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    Fogged films though airport Xray / customs control

    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. #2
    Athiril's Avatar
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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:Ph...efficients.png



    I suggest airplane + some kind of lined bag, you can get lead lined bags.
    Last edited by Athiril; 06-28-2011 at 10:20 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  3. #3
    2F/2F's Avatar
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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).
    2F/2F

    "Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."

    - Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)

  4. #4
    Athiril's Avatar
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    2F/2F; the slow pass scanning should average/phase out the wave pattern though?

  5. #5
    2F/2F's Avatar
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    Maybe. I don't know.
    2F/2F

    "Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."

    - Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)

  6. #6
    Athiril's Avatar
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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/servi.../tib5201.shtml

  7. #7

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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. #8
    Athiril's Avatar
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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. #9
    2F/2F's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leigh Youdale View Post
    Sorry, but you're screwed. At least, the film is.

    There's very little you can do to overcome the damage. It's permanent.
    If the level of fog really is completely even, and not too dense, the film is still usable.
    2F/2F

    "Truth and love are my law and worship. Form and conscience are my manifestation and guide. Nature and peace are my shelter and companions. Order is my attitude. Beauty and perfection are my attack."

    - Rob Tyner (1944 - 1991)

  10. #10

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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

    Quote Originally Posted by 2F/2F View Post
    If the level of fog really is completely even, and not too dense, the film is still usable.
    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!

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