View Full Version : To fly my LF gear or not. What do I do ???

Daniel Grenier
13-Jan-2006, 08:56

My wife and I are flying to San Francisco (from Canada) and I am having serious doubts about the sanity of taking my 8x10 gear along. I have never flown with it and given that I am border-crossing and switching planes half way, I fear a loss, theft or damage is imminent. So much so that I am considering leaving the camera behind as the purpose of the trip is more wine/food related (but I would still like to drag the camera along for some shooting).

So what are the odds given your experience with flying LF gear?

Should I take it? Leave it behind?

John Brady
13-Jan-2006, 09:11
My advice would be to take it, but only if you can carry it on the plane and keep it in your possession. That means you will need to make sure it will fit in the overhead compartment. I would also try to board the plane as early as possible. When the bins get full they will check your carry on luggage with the other checked luggage.

I flew to Italy last year with all my 4x5 gear including 3 lenses, meters, Polaroid back, ready-load holder, filters, etc. and 60 sheets of quick load and ready load film. I carried my tripod separate and stored it overhead. I had no problems at all. I went thru security as easily as everyone else.

I know 8x10 will take up more room but Iíll bet you can do it.

Good Luck

Colin Graham
13-Jan-2006, 09:12
The anxiety of missing some great shots has always outweighed the anxiety of damaged/stolen gear for me. I tend to drag my stuff everywhere, to the consternation of friends, family and airport security alike.

David A. Goldfarb
13-Jan-2006, 09:22
When I travel with 8x10" or 4x5", I carry my cameras, lenses, and film on board and put my empty filmholders and tripod in my checked luggage along with things that seem to catch the attention of inspectors--cable releases, Linhof cams, and small tools.

Call Gasser's (gassers.com) and/or Calumet if you want to buy film or rent equipment in SF. In the event that your checked luggage is delayed, you can rent filmholders and a tripod.

George Stewart
13-Jan-2006, 09:22
Take it! I'd recommend taking the camera and lenses onboard, and having everything else as checked luggage. What I usually do is to wrap all the valuables amoungst clothing, deep inside the bag (perhaps a bag within a bag. I also do the same with the tripod. This makes it more difficult for thieves to get at it quickly.

tim atherton
13-Jan-2006, 09:22
regarding the last post - note that if you are flying Air Canada they have just introduced more restrictive carry on regulations which they claim will be enforced more strictly (mind you I think they also say in addition to the actual allowance you can carry on a camera - not sure they said how big though... :-) )

Ben Calwell
13-Jan-2006, 09:23

You might be able to pack into some sort of carry-on luggage. I've flown with my little Wista 4x5 and have never had any problems. It fits in a bag that I can slide under the seat. The bag holds the camera, two lenses and a couple of film holders. And so far, no trouble with TSA. I would definetly take the 8x10. You would probably regret not having it with you.

tim atherton
13-Jan-2006, 09:25
just for Air Canada:

Information on Carry-On Baggage
New Security Measures Starting January 5, 2006

Air Canada

Carry-on baggage allowance for all customers

It's a busy travel season, so please keep in mind our maximum
carry-on baggage allowance. Starting January 5, 2006, airport agents
will be strongly enforcing carry-on luggage size and weight
restrictions. Oversized carry-on bags cause many flight delays, so
don't forget to confirm your allowance before your trip.

Items, which falls within the 2-piece carry-on allowance, include:
Carry-on bags or suitcases (wheels and handles included in the size),
briefcases, Laptop computers, diaper bags, camera cases, cartons or
other similar items.

** Include all airport and duty free purchases in the carry-on allowance.
(standard article 23cm x 40cm x55cm - Personal article 16cm x 33cm x 43cm)

Items permitted but not considered part of the allowance include
camera, coats, purses (25cmx30cmx20cm or less), urns containing human
remains, strollers, child restraint systems, canes, crutches,
walkers, containers carrying life sustaining items and other similar

Electronic equipment

These items can be placed in your carry-on baggage, however to bring
these items on-board make sure to turn the power on for the security

Information on Checked Baggage

Christopher Perez
13-Jan-2006, 09:31
I too would recommend that if you can carry onto the aircraft your camera, lenses, and film - take the setup with you when you travel.

I regularly travel 1/2 around the world with an over the shoulder bag and one small suitcase (my limit for carryons). The over the shoulder bag holds the 4x5, Readyload, lenses, and film. The suitcase holds my tripod and gifts for my colleagues (with a little room for clothing :-).

In your case, your 8x10 might fit the suitcase and your over the shoulder bag could hold the film and lenses.

Have a great trip.

Jerry Flynn
13-Jan-2006, 09:49
For my vacations, I use a Pelican case that I lock with approved combination locks (the kind the inspecotrs can open with a special key). I use a monorail 4X5, so carrying it on board is not feasible. The case is very well padded, and I have had no problems. I also check my tripod in a hard-sided case. I also carry on a smaller bag with my film and film holders.

I always avoid anything other than a direct flight - the less the luggage is transferred, the less likely it is to get lost. I have not done this internationally, so have no experince with those complications.

Louie Powell
13-Jan-2006, 10:02

I have not taken my LF (4x5) gear to California - yet. But I am seriously considering schlepping it along on the next trip. There is so much to photograph in the San Francisco area that just begs for LF - from coastal scenes along Rt. 1 t0 the old fortifications it Marin Headlands to fog and trees just about everywhere. And if you are heading to Napa Valley (you did say food and wine), the opportunities there are boundless.

I use a LowePro backback to carry my camera (a Zone VI lightweight), two lenses, a meter and some holders. Normally, my tripod is strapped to the backpack. I am fairly certain that the tripod would cause the security folks some heartburn (it could be used as a weapon), so I would plan to either wrap it in underwear and bury it in the bottom of a suitcase, or put it in its own bag and check it as luggage. The backpack would fit into the overhead and would be carryon. I have a small bag that my wife purchased many years ago to hold her camcorder that I would use to transport additional holders, a box of unexposed film, three empty boxes (N, N-1, and N+1), a changing bag and a paperback book (it's a long flight to California). This bag would also be carryon and would fit easily under the seat.

I would plan to get to the airport two hours ahead of the flight (as a frequent flyer, I've learned that this is just plain common sense), and I would let my film go through the x-ray machine. As long as there are no problems with flights that screw up my schedule, I know that the film will only be x-rayed twice - once on the outbound trip, and once on return - and my experience is that this is not enough to cause a problem (for me).

Now about the Air Canada rules - I am intrigued about the idea of flying with "urns containing human remains" . I suspect we could have some fun with that one!

Ted Harris
13-Jan-2006, 10:15

I have a Porter Case that I originally bought for the express purpose of flying with an 8x10 field camera. It can easily be configured to carry a camera, two lenses, light meter and a few film holders and a a few other odd bits ... how much additional stuff depends on the size of your camera. I have used it with both a Philllips Compact II and a Wista double extension. I chose the Porter because it is a rock solid, sturdy hard case that I was not uncomfortable checking if forced to do so at the last minute. At the same time it is a great case for carryone with wheels and is also convertible to serve as a 'dolly' or platform to hold all your other bags. It can support a weight of 200 pounds. I have literally run through airports with a bag of clothing and a large aluminium case on top of the Porter with no mishaps. My only caveat is that my case is one of the original Porter cases from some 5-8 years ago when they were manufactured in the US by Porter. They are now made overseas and I have no idea if the quality has remained the same.

If you want some snaps of the beast send me a note offlist.

Donald Hutton
13-Jan-2006, 10:35
I just did a 5 week trip to South Africa with an 8x10 (and a wife, four year old and two year old....) - definitely take it. I have a Pelican case which I customized for the camera and just checked it - I packed film holders and my tripod and head in my other checked luggage and carried my film and lenses in my carry-on (along with a couple of other cameras). I'd be pretty comfortable packing a field camera into a hard case too. Have just spent the past week developing many sheets of film and maintaining my tan with a Nuarc plateburner! The whole trip went so well, I am now working on the "easily portable" 11x14 outfit!

13-Jan-2006, 10:35
I've wrapped cameras and lenses in clothing and centered them in a checked bag, with no problems. Clothing is by its nature an excellent padding material. In terms of damage, I bet I could do my equipment more by underpadding it and slinging it up into the overhead, than is likely if it is buried in a suitcase.

Whatever approach you use, once you've survived a couple flights, you will get used to it.

Of course carry any film, exposed or not; on one trip my 160 film went through 9 carry-on x-rayings, with no problem.

Frank Petronio
13-Jan-2006, 11:03
I'm going to Europe with my 8x10 in a Lightware 1629 case, with everything inside that one case except for film. If one part of my outfit gets lost or stolen the camera is unusable anyway, so why separate it and lug more than you need to?

I'm sick of lugging crazy 40 lb carry-ons - this time I'm just taking my laptop, travel junk, books, DSLR with one lens, and a couple of film boxes - it's still a load and a half but relatively light and sane compared to trying to pack lenses and holders too.

Alan Davenport
13-Jan-2006, 11:20
Make sure your insurance will cover any eventuality. Then fly. If the camera doesn't get there in one piece (or at all) call your agent when you get home. Otherwise, you'll get to take the photos you imagine...

Ed Burlew
13-Jan-2006, 11:34
If you are not sure then why not call Calumet in San Fran and arrange for a rental. I went with a 2.25 SLR and 4 lenses and arranged fo 50 rolls of e-6 and prosession so I got the film and did a test roll on arrival the at the end dropped off the film and had the processed film couriered. Essentially no hassel at all. You could just fly in like avisiting pro.

Steve H
13-Jan-2006, 11:45
Items permitted but not considered part of the allowance include camera, coats, purses (25cmx30cmx20cm or less), urns containing human remains, strollers, child restraint systems, canes, crutches, walkers, containers carrying life sustaining items and other similar items.

Well there you have it ! Now you just need to find a large enough Urn.

On a serious note however, I am planning a trip via aircraft as well, and want to carry my 4x5 system. Luckly for me, my Sinar system fits nicely inside of its 'briefcase' - which is oversized for carry-on, but according to my carrier (Southwest), they will allow it. As for my tripod (Consists of a Bogen 3047 Head and 3021 Legs), Im going to place it in my dufflebag, along with my clothing; that way I will be able to carry on everything.

FYI - Southwest's Policy

Media cameras are exempt from the sizing box restriction imposed on other carryon luggage. If the camera is to be secured in a seat, however, a ticket must be purchased for that seat.

David Starr
13-Jan-2006, 12:09
Items permitted but not considered part of the allowance include camera, coats, purses (25cmx30cmx20cm or less), urns containing human remains, strollers, child restraint systems, canes, crutches, walkers, [b]containers carrying life sustaining items and other similar items.[b]

Can a view camera be considered a life sustaining item?

13-Jan-2006, 12:40
Take it, carry it on board with you. I use a Lowepro Photo Trekker Classic Camera Backpack as well as hand carry a black Bogen CF tripod. Sometimes I do get looks from passengers so I just smile and say something in a more comforting American accent. Never had a problem stowing them as I always board asap to ensure overhead space. Sometimes I do pack the tripod in checked baggage and to avoid rippoffs the tripod is disassembled including each leg section. Maybe I am paranoid but the theory goes that most thiefs are opportunistic and a disassemled tripod is too much work relative to the reward.

David A. Goldfarb
13-Jan-2006, 12:51
I always check my tripod in a Tenba TTP bag, and I've never worried about it being stolen. I've had a laptop stolen from checked baggage at Laguardia (last time I do that!) and once I had some loose change stolen, but a tripod seems like a much more unwieldy thing to steal and maybe a little too specialized to fence easily. Do thieves really know which tripods are valuable? I'd guess that the larger video and cine tripods might seem more of an attraction, if someone really wanted to steal a tripod.

When my laptop was stolen, I also had a Canon EF and two lenses in my bag. They were obviously too old to be of interest.

Patricia Langer
13-Jan-2006, 14:58
I'm flying Air Canada at the end of the month into the States and these are the carry on dimensions (which you may already have): Baggage allowance on board: 2 pieces and one purse. 1) 9"x 16"x 22" 2) 6"x 13"x 17" Purse 10"x 13" x 17". Each of the two carry on's can weigh no more than 10 lbs.
My case with wheels for my 8x10 exactly measures for item 1 but weighs 30 lbs. That;s only the camera, two lenses, light meter, darkcloth and three holders. So now I'm trying to imagine how to redistribute all of this and seriously considering checking it -- just the thought makes me shudder. My case is a soft exterior.
I hope you decide to take it -- and if you come up with a wonderful carry-on solution, I would love to hear it.

13-Jan-2006, 15:13
Hey I just though of a way to carry even more equipment on board, either wear a jacket with a ton of pockets or get one of the Domke style photographers vests and stuff all of your smaller items such as lenses, meters, filters etc., in the pockets. When you get on board stuff the vest in the overhead bin. Think of it as your third carry on :-)

tim atherton
13-Jan-2006, 15:21
"Each of the two carry on's can weigh no more than 10 lbs"

10kg each Patricia - so that's a bit of an improvement - about 22lbs each

"and if you come up with a wonderful carry-on solution, I would love to hear it."

Phillips Explorer... :-)

Patricia Langer
13-Jan-2006, 15:27
Tim, thanks!! I don't know why I read it as 10 lbs -- dumb, when I live in metric. Guess I can scoop everything up from the floor and relax a bit. I'll check out the Phillips solution.

tim atherton
13-Jan-2006, 15:40
5.6 lbs for the camera - but it's a long wait....

When I have to travel by plane I've trimmed it down to CF tripod in the luggage - LW Phillips (was Compact II - now the lighter Explorer), lenses are all small and light - 159mm Wolly, 210mm Kowa, 300mm and 450mm Fuji C's - heaviest is the 250mm Fuji 6.7 all in technika boards and some lighter Mido Holders.

It's okay if it's for work, but worst is if the whole tribe is also travelling (though you can hijack some of the kids carry on...) - diaper bags, food, backpacks, stroller (at least they don't count the latter) etc etc. The pressure to leave the camera behind becomes intense!

One thing I've also done - I have a big old beat up Samsonite hard-side suitcase - I've packed the camera in that inside it's own "soft" (Lightware style) case, then surrounded the rest with clothes, tripod and odds and ends. Then carried on the lenses and other stuff - not much good if the case goes missing, but other than that it's worked well - especially with my previous Deardorff or Kodak Master 8x10.

Daniel Grenier
13-Jan-2006, 16:19
You guys have got me (almost) convinced. Thanks.

I am indeed flying Air Canada and heading straight to Napa for a week and then down to Carmel &Yosemite (...planning to spend enough time at the wineries to see EW's and AA's ghosts!).

Seems like it might be a lesser production than I first thought so I may well take the 8x10 along as we all know that the world needs more pictures of Point Lobos and Bridal Veil !!!

Anyhow, thanks again folks and I am really looking forward to my very first trip to California - especially - all those wineries and snazzy restaurants we're booked into (Bouchon, Jeanty, La Toque, Martini.... still working on that hard-to-get French Laundry).

Cheers and thanks again, folks.

Louie Powell
14-Jan-2006, 07:50
To book a reservation at the French Laundry you must call EXACTLY two months prior to when you want to go there. No sooner and no later.

And you have to mortage the homestead to pay for it.

I suggest TraVigne in Yountville. Keep in mind that it's really hard to get a bad meal in the Bay Area.

Chateau Montelene in Callistoga is one of the more beautiful and photogenic wineries. And don't pass up the Bale Grist Mill.