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Thread: Flying with 8x10 film

  1. #1

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    Flying with 8x10 film

    Just passed through security at Houston Bush airport on my way to Europe and thought I would share this.
    After requesting a manual inspection of one box of 8x10 sheet film, a swap test was done. Then, the lady wanted to open the package and look inside which resulted in conversations with her immediate supervisor, next higher supervisor, and finally security manager (I had plenty of time...). To make a long story short, they all insisted to either open the box or send it through x-ray. The swap test was not enough. One of them suggested I should go back to ticketing and check it in. Obviously, I had the film x-rayed. This was a surprise to me because I have travelled frequently with 8x10 film and tsa was always content with a swap test. Regulations have not changed (I asked) and I also asked the manager if (1) all of the staff in previous years didn't do their job properly (he implied that is the case, yes); and (2) if I could bring a changing bag for them to hand-inspect the film inside. Absolutely not without knowing what's inside. I guess he had a point as an 8x10 box is large enough to contain non-metallic weapons (so he said).
    Anyhow, this was interesting and I guess it means that 90% of tsa staff have no clue why they do what they do and I came across 1 guy who does.
    So, if they do their job, the only option really is x-ray.

  2. #2

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    Re: Flying with 8x10 film

    I has the tsa supervisor at LAX tell me "i don't go by those rules" when I presented them with the tsa website printout. You don't have to be smart nor competent to get a government job.

  3. #3

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    Re: Flying with 8x10 film

    While I understand you concerns (8x10 is expensive stuff and mostly impossible to find on location), why (unless you carry fast film or there is the possibility it will be X-rayed too many times) bother with asking for hand check? X-ray really does no harm there. To me it sounds like asking for trouble. What would you do if the guy would tell you that the package MUST be opened because you seem to act "strangely" about it?
    Matus

  4. #4
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    Re: Flying with 8x10 film

    Last traveling I did with 8x10 film, I put my film and holders in a pelican case, ziptie through the padlock hole, and sent it to myself USPS "General delivery" to the town I was traveling to. (Of course that is probably not an option traveling to Europe)

    I've had TSA prefer to open 4x5 film boxes when flying. They wanted to swab the inside of the box. I managed to get them to stop opening it just in time (a little duct tape helped) and had them xray it instead. You never know what you're gonna get for protocol.

  5. #5

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    Re: Flying with 8x10 film

    Any film I travel with I just send through the carry on xray. It isn't worth the hassle. I have never heard one iota of evidence that those xrays harm film nor have I seen it even with fast films.

    I tried once to get something sent general delivery when I was traveling and you think I was asking for the world. Better to send it FedEx or UPS and have it held for you at one of their centers or send it to your hotel.

  6. #6

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    Re: Flying with 8x10 film

    I have received the exact same treatment every time I have flown through Oakland for over three years. I either bring a changing bag and let them "hard inspect" in the bag (they like to do this). Or, increasingly, just put it through the xray machine.

    (EDIT): I have also learned from experience that you cannot walk through the "metal detector" with pockets full of 120 film anymore either (they DO NOT like that).

  7. #7

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    Re: Flying with 8x10 film

    I send my 4x5 film through. In the US and Europe I just put the film boxes (usually re-packed to get 50 sheets in the Kodak 10-sheet boxes) into clear ziplock bags and I remove them from whatever bag they are riding in and put them into a bin by themselves. I also try to put some space on the conveyor belt between my film and any other item such as my camera bag. This is all to try to minimize the chance of the film getting zapped twice.

    I have some of the Domke lead bags. I use them only occasionally and more often outside of the US and Europe. For example some airports do extra screenings at customs, or at the gate. So I may use them in those cases. I´ve found in the US if they can´t see through the lead bag they´ll want to send it through again. So it´s better to just send it through in a bin.

    If I were a security officer, there´s no way in hell I would stick my hands into a black bag to inspect boxes without knowing exactly what was inside. So I don´t blame them for not wanting to use a changing bag.

    Matus is right, if you start arguing and demanding a hand-inspection and waving around the TSA rules, then you´re much more likely for someone to demand to open your boxes or not let you fly.

    I´ve never seen film damaged by carry-on x-ray machines. Though I say that while firmly knocking on wood, since I´m currently traveling home from India with 200+ sheets of 4x5 Portra 160.

    What makes me nervous are the large machines usually used by customs screeners. They´re in some airports in the US and elsewhere. I don´t think they´re the same as the film-ruining checked baggage machines, but still they make me nervous. They had those in Mumbai and I asked the guard if it was safe for film and he sort of nodded. But in that case, I put the film in the lead bag just for some extra peace of mind even though I don´t even know how effective the lead bags are.
    Last edited by Noah A; 18-Dec-2011 at 06:12. Reason: clarification

  8. #8

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    Re: Flying with 8x10 film

    Quote Originally Posted by Noah A View Post
    ...If I were a security officer, there´s no way in hell I would stick my hands into a black bag to inspect boxes without knowing exactly what was inside. So I don´t blame them for not wanting to use a changing bag....
    Noah, quite on the contrary. TSA guys tell me that they are required to identify items inside a changing bag as part of their training. So yeah, when I pull out the changing bag and explain what's inside the boxes, they are actually kinda excited to do the hand inspection....I always bring a changing bag and an example film box with all the packaging and even a sample sheet of film to show them - even when I know I'm going to put the film through the machine (just in case they ask to open the box).

    I almost always just put the film though the xray machine now. Never had any film damaged - and have flown all around the world often with multiple airports and plane changes. Never any film damage.
    Last edited by BradS; 18-Dec-2011 at 10:56. Reason: typos

  9. #9

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    Re: Flying with 8x10 film

    The point to separate the film and keep it distance away from things like camera packs and other people's luggage that might be scanned for a prolonged time is a good practical suggestion.

    But since the fastest LF is only 400 ISO, just scan it.

  10. #10

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    Re: Flying with 8x10 film

    Most airports (and dentists offices and hospitals) have switched to digital X-ray machines, which have more sensitive sensors. So the X-ray dose is a tiny fraction of what it used to be.

    Kodak's recommendation of "800 ISO and below" being okay to X-ray is based on the old-school video-screen X-ray machines. The only one I've seen in the past 10 years has been at Bali's antiquated airport. But even the 1600 ISO stuff was fine after passing through it.

    I've sent Delta 3200 and TMAX 3200 through the newer scanners and never had a problem.

    What you don't want to do is use a lead pouch. X-ray machines have autoexposure—the denser the bag, the more radiation. So in order to see into your lead pouch, the machine will give your stuff an unusually huge blast.

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