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Jan Becket
6-Sep-2014, 00:05
I just returned from Scotland w/ 350 sheets of exposed 4X5 TMX 100, all in the original boxes, inside the opened foil packages, two foil packages per box. Since the film had received six scans at various airports in France and the UK I foolishly asked for a hand inspection at SFO, before boarding a plane for the final leg of the trip. Iʻve never had a problem with a TSA hand inspection in the US, but apparently the folks at SFO are a private, outsourced firm, Covenant Security.

The guy took my film to where I could not watch and opened all the three-part Kodak boxes, the ones labeled "exposed film." He claimed he was doing his job and "had" to open them out of my sight, without first giving me the option to send them through the scanner.

Fortunately, In a moment of paranoia in Scotland, I had bought some black electrical tape in a hardware store and had done my best in the changing bag to re-seal each foil packet of 25 sheets. Iʻve developed about a quarter of them. So far so good.

Paranoia can be a good thing. Next time it will be x-ray all the way.

richardman
6-Sep-2014, 01:04
Oh geez... glad it worked out. I have never have to scan my film more than twice so far...

vinny
6-Sep-2014, 01:20
I've had them open the boxes right in front of me even after I explained what was inside. They just don't get it. I yelled across the room at a tsa person once to stop. I thought they were going to cuff me on the spot.

Nicolasllasera
6-Sep-2014, 05:52
I've had them open the boxes right in front of me even after I explained what was inside. They just don't get it. I yelled across the room at a tsa person once to stop. I thought they were going to cuff me on the spot.

I've done the same thing and thought they were going to cuff me. Now i just put it thru the xray and so far so good.

tgtaylor
6-Sep-2014, 08:35
That's strange. So far I have never had a problem asking for hand inspection at SFO. In fact on my last trip I was carrying a lightweight Toyo 4x5 field camera and the TSA agent and a coujple of other TSA officers came over to look at it and wanted to know how it worked, etc. The hand-inspected the film putting some kind of chemical sensor on the boxes.

Thomas

Kodachrome25
6-Sep-2014, 09:53
I have ruled out traveling overseas with LF for this reason, plenty of image quality to be had in MF film. John Sexton now does the same for the same reason.

gth
6-Sep-2014, 13:25
Hmm, thats strange.. I have asked for hand screening many times at SFO and always been treated very nicely. And the film treated correctly. As I recall, security there has always been manned by TSA, so these Covenant guys must be new on the job…. Once they even let me through with a bottle of liquid electrical tape that I stupidly had packed in my carry on. I've run into problems at European airports where I have run into must-follow-the-rules blockheads who insist that the X-ray is safe for anything under xxx ISO….. Which probably is correct…BUT!

In general I find US TSA folks accommodating if you treat them accordingly.

MonkeyBrain
6-Sep-2014, 14:01
I flew through SFO last week with 15 boxes of 4x5 Portra. There are notices everywhere saying something like "our x-ray scanners are film-safe up to 800 iso, but if you want your film inspected by hand, just ask". I asked, they inspected. One of the easiest airport film experiences I've ever had.

Elsewhere I normally end up having to beg for 10 minutes and ask to speak to the boss before I can get a hand inspection.

With the exception of Japanese airports (security at Narita once asked me if I wanted the film inspecting by hand before I'd even pulled it out of my bag). And Schipol.

I was leaving SFO with film though, rather than arriving, so who knows. EDIT: Oh, now upon re-reading I see you were also leaving SFO. Very strange.

I always get processing done in the country where I've shot the film. Always. . Would never risk traveling with exposed film.

But then I shoot color neg and have zero desire to waste my time deving it myself. I feel for you B&W people though...

Vaughn
6-Sep-2014, 14:55
...But then I shoot color neg and have zero desire to waste my time deving it myself. I feel for you B&W people though...

That's okay, we B&W people are quite understanding of photographers that for some reason need color to overcome some lack in their own images...;)

Regular Rod
6-Sep-2014, 16:07
For travellers in the UK you could always try ILFORD's darkroom location service and process your films before flying home...

http://www.localdarkroom.com/

RR

cyrus
6-Sep-2014, 18:08
If you're taking the film as carry-on, I was told that the "xray" machine is not actually using X-rays but is instead using magnetism to "view" inside your bag like an MRI, so really it shouldn't have any effect. That didn't make sense to me since that would mean all the metallic stuff in carry-ons would get magnetized including disk drives...

In any case I've taken 400 speed film through more than 10 zaps and never had a problem, even in third world airports that weren't using the latest "x-ray" machines. Asking for a hand check seemed to me to be creating more of an opportunity for a screw up than anything else.

Jody_S
6-Sep-2014, 19:08
The 800ASA thing is real, I've traveled with a bunch of 35mm film including 2 rolls of 1600ASA, both of which were ruined by the machine. Everything else was ok.

Jim Noel
6-Sep-2014, 20:26
It is a sad fact that these searches are so unthoughtful in the US, but in Europe they seem to know more what they are doing. It is a matter of ignorance versus knowledge.

Jan Becket
6-Sep-2014, 21:17
I see that my experience at SFO was unusual - several others who posted here have had positive experiences. I suspect I just had the bad luck to run into an employee with low wattage, or who didnʻt give a rip. I wrote a letter of complaint, but Covenant never responded. If I have time, Iʻll go over management heads and send letters to board members. That has worked in the past for me on other issues.

I know that some photographers use FEDEX from Europe. Actually, I did too with some 120 film from Paris. No problems, so that might be an option. I worry about what happens when it hits US Customs.

In the meanwhile, the negs are coming out nicely. Another six today ...

Jan Becket
6-Sep-2014, 21:25
For travellers in the UK you could always try ILFORD's darkroom location service and process your films before flying home...

http://www.localdarkroom.com/

RR

Thanks for the lead! Could be an option, although Iʻve been hooked for several years Pyrocat HD, an esoteric developer from the Formulary.

Of course, the other option is to give up and go digital ...

Jim Andrada
8-Sep-2014, 00:06
Radiation can cause problems with memory cards if it's strong enough and of the right type! Nothing is immune to either radiation or stupidity or both, not even digital:<)

I've flown out of Narita well over 100 times, last time carrying six boxes of 8 x 10 Acros in my hand baggage. No problems and they were always very accommodating. I just flew through SFO last weekend with no problems even though I was carrying a Nikon Coolscan as carry on. I though it might set them off, but no problem. Got questioned once flying out of Frankfurt with an accordion, though - seems there had been three other people carrying accordions shortly before me and they were starting to wonder why so many accordions in one day. I know they can be considered instruments of mass destruction in the wrong hands.

The only place I've had film ruined by X-ray was leaving Auckland NZ quite a few years ago.

Glad it all worked out OK.

Kodachrome25
8-Sep-2014, 02:21
Of course, the other option is to give up and go digital ...

Why on earth would you not go medium format first? There is no way in heck I would travel all that distance just to make digi-snaps...

Regular Rod
8-Sep-2014, 03:37
Thanks for the lead! Could be an option, although Iʻve been hooked for several years Pyrocat HD, an esoteric developer from the Formulary.

Of course, the other option is to give up and go digital ...

You might like 510-PYRO. Not least because it is used at 1:100, 1:200, even 1:500. I prefer it for sheet film but have used it successfully with roll film too. It lasts indefinitely and you use such tiny quantities the weight and bulk of the concentrate is negligible. A 200ml bottle would fit easily into your toiletries bag.

RR

Fred L
8-Sep-2014, 06:27
I hope more screeners will be swabbing from now on as that gets to the gist of what they're looking for. My last trip, my ziplock bag of film was swabbed. and set off the alarm...no idea why lol. everything was fine and I chose the full body pat down vs the whole body scan.

cyrus
8-Sep-2014, 08:04
Calibration issues can set off scanners. They check for chemicals that can be commonly found in non-explosives too.

Ari
8-Sep-2014, 08:08
Scan your film at the security area.
One trip, my film got scanned eight times in a 6-week period, before and after exposure, and nothing was wrong with it at all.

Rayt
8-Sep-2014, 08:19
I travel to India every year where there are xray machines everywhere even at entrances to hotels. Most of the time I can get through the door without getting my films scanned but there are times when security insists especially in US chains. So my films get scanned roughly 20 times. At the international airport they scan the bags when you walk in and then scan again through security and then again when you board.

On one trip I flew to Karachi in Pakistan and then on to Lahore and finally to Delhi. I must have had my 135mm roll films scanned 30 times both color and and black and white. I didn't see any defects. If there were any then they were invisible to me.

The prospect of asking security to hand inspect my sheet film and then having to explain what exactly is sheet film to people who do not speak English scares me more than any potential xray damage my eyes cannot see.

jp
8-Sep-2014, 09:41
I hollered at a TSA guy once who was opening up my film box. He only got one layer off as I had taped it adequately. I shouted loud enough to get his attention over the din of the airport and was to the point "please don't open that". They didn't like being hollered at, but I didn't be enough of an *** to receive their special attention or handcuffs.

Letting is go through the carryon xray is usually wise advice. I have mailed film too. Within the US, "general delivery" is a good address to pick up your stuff at the destination post office.

richardman
8-Sep-2014, 11:51
I am really glad to hear all these "carry on" scanners are OK stories. I have scanned my film up to 3 times and no problems, but always wonder what will happen if they have to go through more scanning. Sounds like it's basically non-issue in most cases.

In the old days, I always asked them to hand check, but a) that's before I use LF sheets, and b) that's before they rolled out the porno-scanners. I rather get molested publicly than have my body go through scanners unnecessarily. Asking them to hand check is "one more thing" that I don't want to get them to be pee-off at me for (although I found that being pleasant to them, regardless how much I despise the system, helps move things along quickly).

Drew Bedo
16-Sep-2014, 06:57
In 2010 we flew to Denver from Houston for a week at Rock Mountain NP. I brought unopened boxes of Velvia, T-Max 100 and Tri-X 320. In Houston, I asked for a hand screening for the Tri-X and discussed the packaging with the screener. The box of 50 ccame back with the seals broken . . .OK that was expected. When finally settled in and loading film holders, I found that both the inner foil packages had been opened! Shot a few sheets, but no more. Each had an ~1/2 inch black edge and fogging over much of the negative.

kintatsu
16-Sep-2014, 08:19
San Francisco is almost as bad as LAX, in my experience, about security. My last time there, I didn't have film. I didn't even have to go through the main security. I literally walked across the hall. My flight was late, and the flight I was boarding was held for several of us. I was flying first class, but didn't fit in- white, long hair, greying beard, jeans, t-shirt etc. The security guards nabbed me out of about 6 nicely dressed and clean cut people, and proceeded to search practically every inch of my body. They even made me unbutton and open my jeans in front of everyone, even after being warned I was unclothed beneath them. The whole time they repeated "I am sorry sir. It's about security..."

They watched me leave the plane that arrived and enter the terminal, they watched me hustle across the hall, and they watched me in the line. When I questioned their choice, the reply was it's random. while chuckling and speaking in a foreign language to one another.

Truth be told, even during all that, I was happy to get my plane home. I was in first class the others weren't and so it made up for it! My best friend was waiting for me and the whole affair became just another cool story to tell. Faith and a positive outlook can make even these events come out OK on the other side.

Jan Becket
12-Jan-2015, 01:01
Update: All 350 sheets developed nicely, except for one small batch of a dozen or so that had extremely faint lines that seemed to have come from objects stacked above them when the film went through one of the the 7 carry-on scanners in Europe. Probably not a developing irregularity I use a JOBO Autolab. One of the images turned out to be a keeper, but since I scan my 4X5 negs, Photoshop worked well to "erase" the line. (Clone tool set to 20% opacity does the trick, and replicates the grain nicely.) I realize that many others have not had issues w/ carry-on X-ray, but aside from the fact that different airports have different generations and brands of scanners, it might not be safe to assume that all are correctly maintained. In any case, MOST of my film came out well.

The downside: one box of unexposed film was ruined in SF when the security guy opened the boxes of film beyond my sight. I had sealed all of the inner foil packets of exposed film but not the two two opened packets of unexposed film. Those sheets were all exposed in one corner and had to be thrown out. I filed a complaint form w/ Covenant Security and they promptly sent me a check for $95 to cover the cost of a box of 4X5 TMX. I think what got me the quick settlement is that I was not given to opportunity to have the boxes scanned after the security guy determined that he needed to open them in order to do a swab.

Next time: I would still ask for hand inspection in the US if the film were to pass through a half-dozen airports elsewhere - especially on the outbound leg, when the boxes are sealed. No sense asking in Europe - everything gets scanned, like it or not. I am going to give serious thought to FedEx for return shipment of the film, maybe packed in lead-lined bags with prominent "hand inspect" notices on the outsides.

MonkeyBrain
12-Jan-2015, 02:16
No sense asking in Europe - everything gets scanned, like it or not.

This has not been my experience. Amsterdam totally happy to hand inspect when I've been through. Frankfurt too. Italian airports are always a battle, and usually one I've lost in the end, but not always.

Can depend on who you ask and what mood they're in on that particular day.

Flying through Dubai to Australia I had no problem getting a hand inspection, back through on the return journey I still couldnt persuade them not to put the film through the machine even after 30 minutes of negotiating.

Arrive early, be prepared to talk, wait, and perhaps ask to speak to superior staff. And maybe you'll get through. If you do: cool, that's one less pass of the dreaded rays. If not, so be it.

As ever, speaking the local language and being patient and friendly go a long way.

jnanian
12-Jan-2015, 06:42
in the states they hand inspected fine and were even interested in the film
overseas ... hand inspect wasn't really an option
i have had everything from iso 125 to iso 3200 go through scanners.
this past summer in mulhouse airport ( switzerland ) and in frankfurt
i tried to get hand inspect but they insisted their scanners don't harm film,
( even high iso ) i didn't really have a choice so i believed them,
and they were right.
years ago, it was probably soon after the subway bombings in london
i was traveling through heathrow and they had security and scan checkpoints it seemed
every 50 feet ... my film ( iso 125-3200 ) was scanned heavily that trip, and came out fine then too.

Drew Wiley
12-Jan-2015, 10:48
I avoid SFO whenever possible and fly out of Oakland. They didn't even give my camera and film stuff a second glance the last few trips, but did trash my wife's laptop, and I mean trashed it. SFO is always a major headache, and often has serious flight delays. I've traveled with even ASA 400 film like TMY and not had an issue with multiple X-rays; and I did critical comparison tests with a densitometer. So that saves me the risk of hand inspection. It just goes thru with the rest of the carry-on. But normally I'm traveling with ACROS and Ektar, which are relatively slow speed films, so the risk of fogging is even less. But with sheet filmholders per se I always put a little strip of bright colored vinyl elec tape over the top, to make anybody think twice before pulling a slide. Some of these TSA people seem very thoughtful and responsible, but others are kinda bozos.

Scott Davis
12-Jan-2015, 16:15
Just some food for thought, regarding X-rays in the carry-on scanner: your film gets exposed to a lot more radiation for a much longer period of time in the airplane at 35,000 feet than it does in the carry-on inspection scanner. Checked baggage scanners are an entirely different kettle of fish - they'll toast ISO 25 film given half a chance.

I quit worrying about film getting scanned by the carry-on after flying through Cambodia with HIE, and the only roll I lost was the brand new, never exposed roll still in the Kodak box that the security guy insisted on opening the cardboard box AND opening the canister... the canister labeled "OPEN ONLY IN TOTAL DARKNESS". On that trip, I went through scanners in Washington DC, Newark, NJ, Amsterdam, Singapore, Cambodia, Singapore, Amsterdam, and Newark. After 8 scans plus 48 hours of flying time total, with no film affected, I've decided to pull a Dr. Strangelove and learn to love the bomb.

Drew Wiley
12-Jan-2015, 16:19
... only if the baggage handlers don't steal everything first....

JMB
12-Jan-2015, 17:57
Generally, I keep supplies of film, paper, and developing chemicals in Europe and the USA in order to avoid the need to ask regularly for hand checks. LAX and Pudong, China airports are about the only two airports that I have been able to rely upon for problem free, friendly hand checks. When I am using these airports I will sometimes carry exposed or unexposed film or printing paper. But in all cases, I never let the materials out of my sight.

I adopted these practices after a roll of scanned Ilford FP4 fogged. Its hard to say whether the carry on scan was actually the cause, but its worth the trouble to me to make sure that a special image does not get ruined. I would imagine that the type of film developer used might be a factor and could explain different experiences with carry-on film scans. Also, I am not exactly sure that every carry-on scan gets the same level of radiation. Agents have told me that they have some discretion in dialing in the exposure. But frankly I have no idea whether this is true or not.

I am curious about the claim that film suffers more radiation exposure at 35,000 feet than it does during a carry-on scan. Can we hear more about this? I have heard security guys make this claim in the past, but I am skeptical. In any case, if this claim is true and if it is also true that carry-on scans can fog film, then the claim would not be an very good argument to accept carry-on scans; rather it should encourage us to make other arrangements altogether for transporting or obtaining film on or near location.

MonkeyBrain
13-Jan-2015, 04:15
I am curious about the claim that film suffers more radiation exposure at 35,000 feet than it does during a carry-on scan. Can we hear more about this? I have heard security guys make this claim in the past, but I am skeptical. In any case, if this claim is true and if it is also true that carry-on scans can fog film, then the claim would not be an very good argument to accept carry-on scans; rather it should encourage us to make other arrangements altogether for transporting or obtaining film on or near location.

Yeah, even if true, this just further convinces me that I should always try to avoid as many xray scans as possible as, if the damage is accumalitive (as evidence suggests), then a couple of extra scans on top of the rays the film is exposed to in flight could make all the difference. Basically, if flying with film, in-flight rays are unavoidable. Scanner rays, on the other hand, can sometimes be avoided. I'd rather play it safe and reduce the exposure.

Having said that, I travel all the time, film has often gone through 2 or 3 scans before I get to shoot it (but would be more like 5 or 6 scans if I didnt insist on hand inspections where possible), and the only time I've ever seen evidence of damage was on some Kodak Ektar that friends brought me from China, and I suspect I forgot to ask them to put it in their carry on, so that's entirely my fault.

Having said that, an inexperienced assistant once packed all my film in the checked luggage on a flight from London to Berlin, and it was fine.

Anyway, just to be safe, my philosophy is avoid xrays as much as possible, never put film in checked luggage, but dont stress too much if film does get put through the carry on scan, as more than likely nothing will happen to it.

Drew Wiley
13-Jan-2015, 09:43
High speed films degrade from background radiation relatively quickly. That why they don't keep well even frozen. Cut through the atmosphere at higher altitude
and there's just more of it. But I can't think of any high-speed films we use in large format sheets. To what practical degree more typical films are affected has
been discussed over and over. But so far, I've never seen evidence of airport X-rays of carry-on bags having any effect on any film I travel with. I never put anything of value in checked luggage. If a security line is all backed up, I get the notion that asking for hand inspection is likely to get some agent pissed off and
maybe in a rush and careless - potentially a far bigger risk to your film and gear than just letting things go thru the X-ray machine.

MrFujicaman
13-Jan-2015, 09:54
I fly out to Las Vegas at least once or twice a year and I mail my film to my motel via Priority Mail 3 days or so before I leave and I mail my exposed film and all but about 2 rolls the day before I leave. Las Vegas security is bad to get backed up and they have a very high turnover of TSA staff, so you have a good chance of getting someone that doesn't know TSA's rules.

Drew Wiley
13-Jan-2015, 12:44
Longest security lines I've ever seen were in Vegas.