Terrified about x-ray damage to my film...any advice?

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I will be going to Turkey for six month and expect to shoot over five hundred rolls of b+w 400 film for a project documenting the archeological sites there. I am EXTREMELY worried about coming back through the airport with this amount of film and having a half year of work fogged or worse. Can anyone tell me if they have had experience in Turkey with customs. Do you think that writing to customs with a request for hand inspection will help? Any advice at all appreciated.

-- shane solow (ssolow@mindspring.com), October 08, 2000


I can't comment on the risks at any given airport, other than that it's a real concern. I would never consider shooting this amount of film without processing it as I went. The image quality will be better if it doesn't sit around, and you'll know about any equipment problems right then and there. If you don't like some results, you can go back and reshoot. You certainly don't have to print it, and there shouldn't be much problem bringing a few packages of chemistry and tanks with you.

-- Conrad Hoffman (choffman@rpa.net), October 08, 2000.

I would add to Conrad's comments that if you need to use local processing labs (ie. not do it yourself, and I can't imagine processing a average of 3 rolls a day every day for 6 months...) then take a few extra rolls (duplicates of what you want) and use as test at labs until you find one that you're happy with, then get your good rolls processed there.

-- Nigel Smith (nlandgl@unite.com.au), October 08, 2000.

Check with FedEx, they may fly it out without inspection. If you can't process in the field, send it home in small batches of 10-20 where it can be processed and inform you of any problems. Also you might consider using a slower film which would presumably be less sensitive to X-rays.

-- Bill Mitchell (bmitch@home.com), October 08, 2000.

I have been to Turkey, but it was about 5 years ago. I shot mainly slide film, ISO 400. I carry all my film on, and carry it in a lead bag. I have had no problems with fogging from the CARRY ON MACHINES. They would NOT hand inspect when I was there. There is no way you can carry on 500 rolls of film.

With B&W I would either process it myself or have it processed locally. Otherwise you will lose image data due to the time between exposure and processing.

With a changing bag and a tank or two, some bottles and some chemicals, you can do it yourself. Or in the major cities there will be labs that can do the work for you. Realize Turkey is a modern country, they have electricity and running water and all that stuff.

AFAIK FedEx does not xray packages, but check the price first, the shipping costs may be VERY high.

-- Terry Carraway (TCarraway@compuserve.com), October 09, 2000.

I just want to add a word of caution about the advice (Conrad Hoffman) suggesting that you could take some chemistry with you by plane to Turkey. Many photo chemicals are regulated in transportation as hazardous materials, which are prohibited in baggage. Such items must be shipped in proper packages, with correct markings, hazard labels and documentation, with a transportation company willing to accept them. The FAA has a public service warning at the following site: http://cas.faa.gov/cas/these.html . I urge all to review it. Penalties for violations in the U.S. can be quite severe.

-- Sam (sselkind@home.com), October 09, 2000.

Turkey is not a wilderness. You should be able to buy film and chemistry in Istanbul at least, if not other places as well. Perhaps trying to contact someone there about availability of types of film, processing possibilitiers, etc. might be worthwhile. I assume that since you are going for 6 months for an archeological expidition that you have some contacts there. If not, maybe someone from Turkey visits this forum regularly and can advise you (anyone out there?).

That said, I travel regularly across the Atlantic and carry 400 speed film in boxes and loaded filmholders (sometimes exposed film as well) in both my carry-on and checked luggage. Although no one will ever hand-inspect, I have had NO problems ever with fog or streaking, even though the film has gone through x-ray machines 6 or 7 times. Maybe I'm just lucky, but I think the dangers of x-ray damage for film in carry-on luggage is overplayed a bit. You should, however, make every effort to process your film there, not only because of the possibility of x-ray fogging or streaking, but because exposed film doesn't like to sit around in the heat for six months. It can degrade the latent image.

Bottom line, buy and process film there if you can. If not, carry your film with you and process it there. Last and worse choice is to bring all the exposed film back with you through the airport machines.

Hope this helps, ;^D)

-- Doremus Scudder (ScudderLandreth@compuserve.com), October 10, 2000.

Never put film in checked baggage. They use a new type of baggage scanner that will penetrate the commercially available film carryon pouches. The new scanner is like a CT scan, uses a very narrow beam of xrays to produce a cross-sectional view of your bag.

Modern scanners for carry on luggage are said not to affect film below about 400 speed. (This is for equipment used in the USA, they may use different equipment, more penetrating xrays, higher dose, etc. overseas.)

I always tuck my film into one of the pouches for xray protection anyway.

-- Don Karon (dkaron@socal.rr.com), October 10, 2000.

I'm from Istanbul, Turkey, and I've travelled quite a lot with all my film (in my carry-on luggage) going through x-rays. I never had a fogging problem. You probably won't transport 500 rolls in your carry- on luggage, so I would consider the special film bags containing lead. If you are still concerned, it definitely is worth contacting the customs office.

If you are going to stay in Istanbul for a while, I could provide you with some addresses that sell B&W photographic material. Finding any sort of Ilford or Kodak B&W film is no problem.

Getting your B&W film processed commercially can be quite difficult (not so with slide film). It depends on where you are of course. In Istanbul you can get it processed but it will be very expensive.

If you have further questions please don't hesitate to contact me.

I wish you a pleasant stay in Turkey.

Best wishes, Omar Ozenir

-- Omar Ozenir (omar.ozenir@turkcell.com.tr), October 13, 2000.

I just got back from visiting both Turkey & Greece, besides trying Fedex there are new UPS offices opening up in most major towns too. Coming back from Istanbul I think I had to go through 2 or 3 x-rays so the likely hood of customs do a hand inspection are unlikely. Also if you plan on visiting some of the museums, be prepared to go through x-rays there also and to pay a small fee.

Have fun Chris Becker

-- Chris Becker (beckerck@cadvision.com), October 20, 2000.

Do it the way NGI does it, as you shoot film, number them, then when ready to ship, send the odds and even numbered ones in separate packages, (for 500 rolls though, do four or five packages) that way, even if one or two packages don't make it (due to xrays or getting lost) you still have ALOT of your film, you probably should either have your film shipped this way also (to your destination) or just spend the big dollars and buy it when you get there.

I can just imagine a person carting 500 rolls of film in a huge lead box on wheels saying "no, it's part of the Intl. Space station, really..." gotta love it...


-- Jason Tuck (jtuck80@csi.com), November 18, 2000.

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