I worked at a pro-lab in NYC that got film from all over the place and from photographers just like you who wanted a reputable lab to develop it. Lots of assignment photographers from all over the world, even some from Magnum. I never saw a roll come out bad, get lost, etc. So, I would personally send out batches of 10 rolls at a time or whatever to a friend, get home and develop them at a trust-worthy place or call up a good pro lab and tell them your situation and they would likely develop and hold it for you as long as they had your credit card on file or something.
Newton Swings has the right idea, in my opinion. Take it out of a well insulated cooler to expose it, put it back in when it's been shot. Keeping the temp fairly consistent, even if it's pretty warm shouldn't harm it. The idea of shipping once-in-a-lifetime shots across South America makes the old buttocks clench a bit.
Perhaps, but what are the actually statistics?
Originally Posted by hdeyong
Millions of things are posted from South America to the US and I doubt that many get lost. Probably no more than get posted within the US.
"People who say things won't work are a dime a dozen. People who figure out how to make things work are worth a fortune" - Dave Rat.
If you are paranoid about things getting lost in transit on the way to the lab, save up your shipping of film until you get to your next major city, and then find the FedEx office and ship it back to the lab FedEx. Sure it costs more, but in the scheme of things, plus the absolute un-repeatability of what you're doing, what's a couple hundred dollars in shipping fees in the grand scheme of things? I don't know about photo labs between Mexico and Argentina/Chile/Brazil - there may still be some, and they may be good or may not. But certainly they still exist in cities like Santiago, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Rio and Brasilia. There are some big camera stores in those cities - I'd go in and ask if they know of any that they could recommend. When I was in Buenos Aires a few years ago, there were still a number of 1-hour/next day photo labs doing fairly decent quality work. I had one issue with one that I used, but it was more a customer service thing than anything else: their machine dorked up a couple frames on one roll. This sometimes happens, even in well-run labs - I understand, as I used to work in a well-run minilab. The annoying thing was that they tried to blame it on my camera. I've been around the block enough times and put enough thousand rolls through cameras to know when it's a camera problem and when it's a lab problem. I know this is hardly a confidence-building story about the quality of mini-labs in South America, but my point is that A: the problem I had there I could just as easily have had here, and B: out of nearly 20 rolls I shot in twelve days, to have one roll with a couple of bad frames is not horrible. I would definitely ship the E-6 back to a lab here in the US, process the C-41 locally, and process the b&w yourself. Since you'll be traveling with your own vehicle, transporting chemistry will not be a problem. To save on weight and space, I'd try to use developers and fixers that can be mixed from powder, and just use a water stop.
I'm not sure where your confidence comes from.
Originally Posted by Steve Smith
To me, there are a million things that could go wrong between a post office in Honduras and a lab in the US. Local mis-handling, sitting on in the tropical sun for days at a time, x-ray (at the border or in customs?), stolen from my friend's doorstep, etc. I suppose I could mitigate some of that by paying bigger bucks for Fedex.
Carrying the film around with me presents some risk too. I'm just not sure what the best approach is.
Thanks all for the ideas.
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While I haven't tried to ship any film yet, I'd like to point out that the Mexican postal service seems to have lost the parts I need for my car. So yeah ... losing confidence in the mail. FedEx it is ...
Just a minor update, but I'm officially in Latin America now. As for film handling, I have a bunch of 35mm, Provia 100/400x, Efke 25, Acros 100, Velvia 50, Ektar 100. It is stored in ziplocks that I keep in the fridge in my truck. I thought about the insulated cooler but there wasn't space. In any event, the fridge has been very reliable. I have solar panels on the roof of the truck to keep the battery charged and it runs 24/7, unless I'm in a climate controlled hotel (rare but it happens) in which case I bring it inside with me and shut the fridge off. If the fridge were to die, the six pack can act as a cooling buffer until I get it working again
I still haven't decided how to handle processing. I think local processing in big cities is the way to go and I'll be looking for specific recommendations as I travel. Otherwise, I'd ship it back to the states via FedEx or DHL. I wish I had some way to guarantee it wouldn't get x-rayed as cargo but I haven't been able to find much specific information on how to do that. Local information is not trustworthy, IMO.
I can say that my one experience with the Mexican post has not gone well - I had some parts for my truck shipped to me from the states and they disappeared in the hand-off to Mex Correo.
Erm... Film on long journeys
You shouldn't even complain if you have a fridge and a car.
I did over 3 year round the world journey visiting 5 continents on a motorcycle carring Pentax 67 with 3 lenses and around 30-50 rolls of 120 films at a time. Equipment and film went through hell - from desert to ice. My P67 camera that is as old as I am is tough as an ox - not a single problem during over 100 000 miles of third world roads, offroad trails and motorcycle vibrations. Sent the film back home with a trackable trustworthy services such as UPS, DHL, Fedex from the bigger cities I visited. It's was BLOODY expensive so I sent them home around twice or three times a year, not more. Also I bought new film stock around that frequency. Friend of mine developed them and scanned - put them online for me to download and keept the negs/positives archived there till I got back.
I found out many interesting things about films living in extremes per long time after being exposed:
B&W films can survive hell (except IR, which you need to take care). Some C41 color negs can do fairly well, but not so environment abuse resistant as B&Ws, Kodak seemed to be little better than Fuji C41s, but not much difference. Kodak's E6 films seemed to be the worst - color overtones when got heat treated in Australian +40C desert. Fuji Provia 100F - not so good, but still better than Kodak. Velvia 50 and 100 - seemed to be the best out of E6 films, colors didn't seem to be as affected after longer hot climate abuse both before and after exposing, also Provia 400X does fairly good.
This is no scientific method of course, since with motorcycle I was really affected by the climate and the film batches I had were very varying containing many different types of film with different expiry dates (mostly fresh though!), but I guess per average they showed their tendencies with the above "pushed to extreme test".
The worst factor seemed to be the quick and dramatic temperature variations: i.e. hot day and a freezing night and the condensation that comes with it. Or from hot plains you ride into freezing high mountain altitudes or down again. I'd be very careful with the fridge if you don't run it during the night off the battery, unless you have very well isolated fridge that has very slow temperature rise and drops between the cycles.
Safe roads and you'll sure love South-Am - one of my favourite continents to travel!
Margus, I discovered your adventure while looking around medium format stuff, two years ago. That must have been wonderful (tough however); I'm more of a semi-adventurous traveller type. Welcome to APUG too.
Originally Posted by tsiklonaut
Haven't done any long trip (+2 months) with particularly tough conditions; The most has been about 2 months in tropical weather. However, I'll take into account what's posted here for the future.
I would just store exposed film back in your travel fridge and sort out all the processing when you get back. That way you have complete control over your film stock.
“The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”