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Thread: Protecting film at airports

  1. #1

    Protecting film at airports

    When I travel on assignment I shoot 4x5 transparency film. Going out all of my film boxes are unopened and thus left alone by the airport security. When comin g back I put my exposed film in the now open boxes. So far airport security has not asked me to open them up but if they did I would have no choice but to run them through the X-Ray device. My question is if I were to cut two 4x5 pieces o f the material from those lead pouch products used to protect film and then put a sheet on top and on the bottom of my film would that protect my film? I haven' t seen a pouch big enough for 4x5 film boxes and I hate to put my precious expos ed film on my checked baggage. Any alternatives? Am I missing something obvious ? Thanks

  2. #2

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    Protecting film at airports

    When an X-ray scanner sees a lead pouch, it increases the dosage until it can se e through it.

    If you don't have too much film, put it in your pockets. There's no metal to set off a metal detector. With a little ingenuity, you could probably carry 250 she ets.

  3. #3

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    Protecting film at airports

    well one obvious solution is to shoot Fuji QuickLoads or Kodak Readyloads. In my experience the s.g.s give a quick look and leave it alone. They give me more ha ssle about unopened rolls of 120 roll film (yes i use baggies to carry rollfilm in.) Other than the prepackaged film solution i have in the past just ask me wha t is in the boxes of sheet film and shake it for them to hear. I have not tried this on overseas flights however. usually the amount of miscellaneous photo gear I am carrying seems to make the point that I really am a working photographer. Forget the lead sheets.

  4. #4
    Lost mike rosenlof's Avatar
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    Protecting film at airports

    I've never used one of those lead bags, so I don't know how effective they reall y are or not.

    It's an urban legend that operators of carry on screeners can increase X-ray dos age until they can see through lead pouches at least on machines used in US airp orts. Dosages are actually quite low and fixed, and I'm convinced that a small number of exposures in carry on baggage at airport machines has not a problem.

    A couple of 25 sheet boxes can fit very easily in jacket pockets, and they won't trip the metal detectors. If I'm only going through airport security twice, I just run stuff through.

    Don't put undeveloped film into checked baggage! On top of the loss possibility , there are X-ray inspection devices that can damage film. These are only used for checked bagage, and the FAA won't tell which airports have them.

  5. #5

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    Protecting film at airports

    Of course none of us have mentioned the possibility of just handing the film aro und for hand inspection. No they won't understand what it is but tape the boxes shut and explain politely that it is film. It helps if it is in a box that says film all over it. I'd be interested to see what the FAA or international rules say about sheet film (& film inspections in general) rather than just have us sp eculate. I'll do a little research and report back here and on photo.net.

  6. #6
    tim atherton's Avatar
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    Protecting film at airports

    Re FAA regulations, somewhere I have a print off of the actual regulation that s ays a hand search must be given for film if requested. I will try and find it an d let you know where it is on the FAA site.

    But this isn't any use for somewhere like Heathrow, where the Government regulat ions are that everything must go through the X Ray - or you don't get on the fli ght, simple as that. (the result of 30 years of terrorism I guess). BUT, if it i s 4x5 film in boxes, they aren't going to know that its in your pockets, if they are big enough!

    Tim A
    You'd be amazed how small the demand is for pictures of trees... - Fred Astaire to Audrey Hepburn

    www.photo-muse.blogspot.com blog

  7. #7

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    Protecting film at airports

    Tim's point was exactly what I was trying to say: to only way to avoid putting f ilm through an x-ray is to keep it in your pocket. "Hand inspections", in the UK , just means a slight delay before your film goes through the x-ray.

    In the UK, the situation keeps changing. BAA officially claim that they will do hand-inspections, but the situation on the ground is different.

    Turning up the dials may be a myth in the USA, but I've seen it happen on this s ide of the pond.

    There's other information in the forum on x-rays.

  8. #8

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    Protecting film at airports

    The compuserve BB had a long running thread on this topic. Ctein seemed to be v ery knowledgeable in this area of airports, x-rays and films. His response was that the xray machines used in the "U.S." are very low radiation and will have n o effect on film. However, the xrays machines used to examine luggage is a much higher level radiation and has the potential to fog film.

    I think some of the other suggestions of hand carrying through the metal detecto rs is a good one. The one drawback to that is if security decides they need to look in the box you may not be allowed to pass till they examine the box. This has always been one of my nightmares.

  9. #9

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    Protecting film at airports

    I read an article, I'm not sure if it was in Outdoor Photographer or PDN, in whi ch the author claimed that the new x-ray machines will ultimately become more wi despread to the point of being used for carry-on baggage.

    Rather than risk a scene with the security guards who become suspicious of the b uldging object in your pocket, why not send your film back via an air courier su ch as FedEx or UPS? You could mail it directly to your lab or to your office.

    Good luck, Bruce

  10. #10

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    Protecting film at airports

    Interesting discussion. Now let me add my 2 cent's worth. I am an American livin g in Europe and travel often - 4-6 transatlantic flights a year. I shoot Tri-X a nd T-max 100 and 400 and regularly have them x-rayed with my hand luggage. I eve n pack loaded (undexposed!) film holders in my check-in luggage. Some 100-sheet boxes have even made 2 round trips with me. I regularly fly through London Heath row and New York JFK, San Francisco and Seattle. In over 8 years I have never ex perienced any fogging or streaking due to x-rays. Maybe I'm just lucky. Has anyo ne out there had the dreaded nightmare experience of having film ruined by the a irports or is it just a case of photographic neurosis? I'd love to hear.

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