View Full Version : Recent Travel With LF

28-Nov-2007, 10:27
For the week prior to and of Thanksgiving I had the opportunity to travel to Washington DC on business, so I decided to take the plunge and travel with my LF gear. So, I thought I might share some thoughts about the experience. Before hand I checked with the carrier (United) and TSA about their most recent standards as well as reading what everyone here had to say. After doing so I packed my 4x5, 3 lenses (90mm Angulon, 135mm Sironar S, and 240mm Fujinon), Quickload holder and film, Polaroid holder and film, and vest with lightmeter and other essentials into a large Timbuk2 messenger bag. I carried my tripod in its padded bag. My suitcase with clothing a toiletries was packed as usual. I chose to check my suitcase, which was easily done, and attemt to carry-on my equipment. Going through security at Dallas/Ft. Worth airport was very simple with no problems at all with questions or extra searches. The TSA employee manning the machine was being supervised at the time and she didn't know what she was looking at, but to my amazement her supervisor immediately began pointing things out on the screen, i.e. that's a camera, there's the film, those are lenses, etc. My next worry was would they say anything at security or at boarding with regard to the tripod, and again I had no difficulties what so ever.

For my return flight from Reagan International security was just as easy with no difficulties. The TSA employee there asked me, "That's camera gear, right?" So, my experience thus far, though limited to only two attempts through security, was exceptional with no problems.

On another note my film (Fuji Provia and Polaroids) was not fogged in the process. I was able to come home with some pleasing images considering this was my first real foray into LF in over 15-years. I chose to have film processed at Chrome in Georgetown and am very pleased with the results. Great customer service, quick, and they did a nice job. A little more expensive than here in Texas, but so is the beef.

Louie Powell
28-Nov-2007, 10:39
Ed -

thanks for the positive report.

We see too many "the sky is falling" posts, and its refreshing to have someone report that we don't need to be in a constant state of worry.

Your next step should be to show us some pictures from your trip.


Neal Shields
28-Nov-2007, 13:08
I am probably one of those "sky is falling" guys. I got there from traveling about 2 million air miles in my life and being abused in 20 different languages.

I looked before I posted and can't find any weight restriction for United.

However, that is definately not the norm. Still United has the ubiquitous disclaimer that they reserve the right to jerk you bag away from you and check it.

I have to ask, what was your fall back plan if they insisted that you check your bag?


28-Nov-2007, 14:01
You were flying FIRST class -- right?

Scott Davis
28-Nov-2007, 14:07
Actually, that's been my experience from travelling with large format gear the last several times I flew. And I was in coach. The only issue I had was coming back from Argentina, some nitwit didn't understand what a film box was and started to open my box of offloaded exposed film. Screaming "PELICULA!!!" and lunging for her got that stopped right quick, along with some chuckles from the more knowledgeable security staff.

28-Nov-2007, 17:32
On United I typically fly economy plus for the extra leg room since I'm 6'4". Plan B was to take the chance of having to check the tripod. I really was not worried about the messenger bag, considering it is well under the limits for both external dimensions and weight. One thing to keep in mind is that my kit unlike some is that it is fairly sparse in terms of extra stuff. I don't typically pack a bunch of tools, spair parts, etc. so as to keep the weight down. The first time I ever packed LF gear was down into Canyon Dechelly, and though it was not a long strenuous hike, it would have been a lot easier had I not taken the kitchen sink along. So, since then I have always tried to only take a minimal amount of gear regardless of whether I am photographing or just hiking. It's a risk I know, but one I am willing to take. When I decided to get back into LF I purposefully picked lenses that I knew were both comfortable choices for me photographically as well as weight related. I am not so particular on weight though that I'm an ounce counter. The look of brass and well-finished wood is just too enticing to go that far. I hope to get some pictures up eventually. I've never gone the drum scan route before, and that is my next adventure. I need to take my chromes to BWC and get that started.

Mike Lewis
28-Nov-2007, 18:39
I travel frequently within the U.S. and almost always take my LF gear with me, which consists of a Linhof Technika and several lenses. I have had almost no problems with airport security. In the larger airports, especially, they have seen it all and usually don't ask about the camera.

Recently at my "home" airport, Baltimore-Washington (BWI), when my camera appeared in the Xray I was asked to remove my "CPAP machine" from its case. A CPAP machine is used by those with sleep apnea. I explained that the device was a camera. I was sternly told that "no electronics can be inside bags". I replied that the camera was over forty years old, and it had no electronics in it. The TSA official stared at me in bewilderment and repeated that no electronics can be in a bag. So I put the Linhof on the belt (or in a tub by itself, I forget) and let it go through the xray. No further problems.

I have to emphasize, though, that this TSA crew must have been new, and that my encounters with TSA for the most part have been very professional. I have no real complaints with them and I think that they do a pretty good job, IMHO.

28-Nov-2007, 21:46
My experience has been similar to the OP's. The TSA has always treated me with the professionalism and courtesy. I've never had a problem in the US. I've even shared my changing bag with the TSA so they could hand inspect my sheet films. No issue...it was actually quite painless.

The only time I've been hassled was when flying out of London and Madrid. Actually, London just has ridiculous restrictions...they are ever so polite about them however. Spain - not so much....but, I think part of my problem was that I speak mexican spanish and not Spanish (castillian?) Spanish...big difference.

Israel was also not a problem, but, I think that may have been because I was travelling on business and my company put me on the "good guy" list. They did do a very, very, very thorough search of my gear and paid special attention to anything electronic. The wood field camera passed as a minor curiosity.

1-Dec-2007, 21:55
This must have been the holiday for good travel experiences. I spent the week of Thanksgiving and this past week in New York. I did not plan for any LF shooting but I took my MF SLR kit packed in its backpack and about 20 rolls of 100 ASA film in an insulated lunch bag I always use to carry film or film holders (...works great, by the way...). At the security check in Houston, I threw it all on the x-ray belt and I went through the metal detector. The TSA agent must have recognized it as a photo backpack and snatched it off the belt and came around the machine and told me that he was willing to hand check the camera & the film. I was actually quite surprised... so he hand checked it all, chatting away the whole time, and sent me on my way. No problems at all! I guess I'm going to have to get over being a crank about airline security...

2-Dec-2007, 17:23
I think it really is hit-and-miss. I've never had a bad experience, except for the one time that the same security person that checked me through security checke3d me again at the gate- swabbed everything. I was first in line to get on the plane, as I had upgraded to First class. After the check was done, I was the last one on the plane - I was lucky to get any overhead storage. That really wasn't a bad experience, since she was courteous....but I was annoyed, since I *was* first in line :-) Maybe that was why she choose me :D

Other than that, I've never had an issue. And I carry on 8 lenses, my Technika, film holders, etc. Tripod get's checked with my clothes. Never had a problem.

Louie Powell
2-Dec-2007, 18:27
I think it really is hit-and-miss. I've never had a bad experience, except for the one time that the same security person that checked me through security checke3d me again at the gate- swabbed everything. I was first in line to get on the plane, as I had upgraded to First class. After the check was done, I was the last one on the plane - I was lucky to get any overhead storage.

In the immediate post-9/11 era, the fledgling TSA did spot checks at the gate, and it was SOP that the schlub who was first in line got the full treatment. And since they didn't have portable x-ray machines and metal detectors, they opened your carry on and pawed through everything.

The airlines would frequently assist in the harassment by flagging passengers whose checkin presented some kind of anomaly. I usually use a passport for identification, and I lost track of the number of times I was targeted for supplementary screening because I had some visas in my passport in Arabic.

Fortunately, they don't do that any more.