To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
- William Blake
I travel with 5 or 6 holders, empty film boxes for storing exposed film, and a changing bag. Works just fine. Changing film too often is a pain in the neck, so I try to ensure that I never have to be changing film in the field. If shooting both color and B&W I often bring 4 or 5 holders loaded with each.
Re: Grafmatics... they sure sound convenient but I echo Drew Bedo's question. I see lots of interest when they come up for sale but never hear much about people using them. Sometimes I think I keep seeing the same couple of grafmatics getting sold and re-sold, but that might be my vivid imagination. Since they survived for a long time in the Graflex catalogue I assume they were a good and useful item.
They work very well, especially if you use them a lot and remember the motions. I use them less and need to review the instructions each time. I suspect the reason you don't hear about them is that people don't complain. posting threads usually is becaude of a problem or a complaint.
Still darkslides are simple!
Bill (KISS) Cowan
"There are a great many things I am in doubt about at the moment, and I should consider myself favoured if you would kindly enlighten me. Signed, Doubtful, off to Canada." (BJP 1914).
I love the Grafmatic film holders. I can cary a lot more exposures in my pack that way. I have invested in 3 one for my B&W film, one for my color film and one for my B&W infrared film.
One thing I like about them is that they have a little number wheel that will expose a small number onto your negative. This makes it much easier to match up your exposure notes with your negative. Some people will remove the number wheels so be sure that when you buy the holder it has it.
Do a search on YouTube for grafmatic holder and you can see a few good videos on how they work. They are actualy quite simple.
"Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter."
Ansel Adams reputedly went head first into his sleeping bag on occasion to load/unload his film holders.
I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
I have been using Grafmatics forever, at least 30 years. I have never had a failure that wasn't a direct result of my own nervousness/stupidity/adrenaline/clumsiness/panic/mosquito dancing. The same holds true for regular sheet film holders (double dark slides). Quickloads are however a very different thing.
I love the convenience of QL/RL film and have a fridge full of Acros, but I have had issues on occasion, and of course there is the cost. When I run out, I'm not going to pay the current prices, heck, I wasn't too thrilled about the old prices.
A loading tent and a Grafmatic (preferably two) and you should be set. But I have done the head in the sleeping bag dance as well...not fun. I usually travel by van, so the motel bathroom is not an option but, as Bruce suggests, it is workable.
I use a Calumet changing tent and it folds nice and flat, doesn't take up that much room and the weight is minimal.
Enjoy your trip.
I've been doing this so long that I just assume everyone has the same experience as I have had. Grafmatics were just being phased out of manufactureing when I started in LF. About 1973. I bought my first in 77. Then when I started working at Deardorff there was a photographer who made the switch to MEDO. (remember them?) He gave me 15 Grafmatics in barter for some repair work. A great trade up!! The numbers had been ripped out and all has been good with them. Find some online instructions and get one. I've never had a leaky one so I have no experience with repair. I put a piece of green or blue painters tape on them to write on. so I know what I shot.
Ken Hough Deardorff Refinisher since 1982
Deardorff Factory refinisher / remanufacturer 1982-88
Deardorff Factory Historian 82-88
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I took a Harrison changing tent on a camping/shooting trip to South Dakota 2 years ago. I had enough loaded holders with me that I did not need to reload for a few days (+/- 5 holders per day seems like my limit). I waited until as late as possible in the evening until it cooled down, finding that sweaty hands and forearms inside the tent make handling film challenging. The first time or two that a park ranger-type person drove by on his/her golf cart I got the potential terrorist evil eye, but once they found out what I was doing life was good again. My biggest problem was keeping track of N-, Normal, N+ A side, B side, but it more or less worked out. Dust was not an issue...maybe an unintended benefit of the humidity my sweaty hands and arms created.
I know you're concerned about bulk, but I've always used a couple f/64 film holder cases. They don't cost that much (~$25) and hold six holders each. I carry two, for 12 holders total, and often go through them all in a busy day. The f/64 cases are nicely padded and constructed for protection and to keep the film from heat extremes. They have a pocket for darkslides or notebooks and even some provision to attach to camera bags or backpacks - especially f/64 backpacks - so they're quite convenient to travel with and work out of.
If you can't get Grafmatics, standard film holders are pretty much your only option. If you're shooting B&W and don't use quickloads, it's best to just bite the bullet and budget for the space. For a large format film shooter, the actual film seems to be right up there near the top of the "necessity" list!
I also have a pain in the **s changing bag (not tent), but almost always load film at night in the hotel bathroom. I carry a roll of gaffer's tape for light leaks. Exposed film is placed in a labelled, empty film box. I travel all the time and have never encountered a hotel bathroom that was unusable (at night). You can often tape your darkcloth over the window if necessary. If all else fails, or I have to load film during the day, I can still use the changing bag and get it done. It's inconvenient and time consuming, but very compact and usable in a pinch.
Hope my (quite common) method of film handling while traveling helps you in your pursuits.
Dan - I just read your comments regarding "keeping track of A side, B side, Normal, etc.". There is an easy and convenient way of permanently marking your holders with a binary code that will appear on your developed film and positively correlate it with the holder it came from. Way Beyond Monochrome gives specific details for this, but if you are interested I'm sure you could Google this method and get the same results if you don't have the book. As long as you're keeping notes of your exposure details with film holder numbers as you shoot, you'll always be able to identify which sheet came from which holder after you develop your film.
...Now that I think about it, this system isn't particularly useful for tracking exposed sheets BEFORE you process them, per your comments. Even then, it sure does provide some valuable information later when you're trying to evaluate the effects of N, N+, filters used, etc...on your processed sheet film. Sorry, I wasn't quite in touch with the particular problem you mentioned in your post.