Film is Dead for Overseas Travel…

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by DB_Gallery, Apr 24, 2021.

  1. Don’t you just hate a tabloid-like title on a post? Yeah…me too, but not nearly as much as the reality I and other film fans are facing in using their favorite rolls of film abroad.

    This Fall my wife and I have to be out of our house for 3-4 months for a remodel. Because my wife can not take time off but does work remote, she is simply going to spend the time at her mother’s place in Arizona. I on the other hand will have the ability to use this time as an excuse to travel and make new work. When in the U.S. I do this using an elaborate off road camper setup that allows me to be on the road as long as I want. And while I am planning some of that, I also want to do something really out there and go live in some cool North Atlantic islands for a couple months. All the travel and lodging logistics are well worked out and in budget but I am facing a big, BIG problem.

    One can simply no longer travel with film in tow overseas and expect to avoid the nasty new CT scanning technology with carry on luggage. This is such a significant issue that Kodak, Ilford and even Fuji put out bulletins about it last year, flying with film abroad is nearly a total non-starter. I went through the highly exhaustive process of contacting the security entities of each airport and there is simply no way to be assured of a hand check anymore. So flying with film abroad is for all intents and purposes, dead.

    I can have new film shipped to these islands via B&H or Freestyle but I am looking at two months here folks, that is at least 300 rolls of 120 for this kind of project, 500 would be preferred. I already have many times more than that in my freezer so I want to ship the film to this location ahead of me and not pay out the wazoo customs fees for film that is out of date and paid for long ago. And more importantly, I want to make sure it gets back safe and sound.

    Basically for the trip of a lifetime that would yield an amazing body of work and is already costing in the 5 figures, I want assurances….and I am not getting them.

    I have tried getting help from Ilford, Kodak, Fedex, Freestyle, B&H, DHL, ATA Carnet services, Logistics operations, Luggage forwarders, U.S. Customs, European Customs, etc. and keep getting no solid answers and quite a bit of run around. Ilford and Kodak basically gave me the virtual equivalent of a shoulder shrug and “Don’t know what to tell you”.

    Right now I am looking at using Fedex to ship a max of 360 rolls of the film to this place in a flat rate 10KG box for about $320, it would take me to the 25KG box to ship all 500 at a rate of $475. Then I will have to figure out a way back using DHL…and I will want it insured. It would not surprise me if I paid over $1,000 to get my film out and back and I have no idea what kind of insurance that would give me due to the oddities of customs when it comes to customs value vs carriage value.

    Why am I posting this out-loud-thinking one might ask?

    It’s real simple, for the long term we film users who want to use it abroad are going to need some serious minutia cutting help in executing this using shipping. I have worked on this daily for 2-6 hours per day for the past two weeks and let me tell you, it is maddening and draining.

    So I will conclude with a simple question, in regards to avoiding airport Xray, has anyone successfully shipped film out ahead to their destination and then when about to leave, shipped it back home without issue?

    And if so, what did it take?

  2. Get used to embracing the LOMO look -or the Fujifilm digital in-camera film filters.
    Not helpful at all, I know - but easier.
  3. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    Could you buy the film abroad and develop it yourself or have it developed abroad (negatives only)?
  4. Alas, this may just be "nature's" way of telling you that it is time to go digital.

    And I thought I was 'trailing edge' when I switched to digital (along with many others) around 2005.

    I still shoot film, but for fun and close to what still persists of my 'analog' support system.

    I certainly wouldn't plan on being able to buy film overseas. Just five years ago, in a long trek across northern India I didn't see any film for sale at all.
  5. What about hand inspection? If you show up at the airport early (i.e. give yourself and the airport employees plenty of time) and just politely but defiantly refuse to put your film through the scanner, wouldn't some supervisor concede to your request for a hand inspection? I've had recent hand inspections granted.
  6. Not my experience, especially outside the US.
  7. What assurance is there that those boxes don't get scanned too? It is my understanding that domestically, FedEx and others don't scan and use their own planes - but that doesn't necessarily transfer over to international shipping where sometimes commercial airlines are employed to transport the goods.
  8. SCL


    I understand your frustration, and it seems you've pretty well evaluated most of the solutions other than spending some of that anticipated outlay on a digital outfit. You will still have that home freezer filled with film for other future domestic opportunities, and you will get to photograph your dream trip. Perhaps not the ideal solution, but one worth considering.
    ajkocu and Jochen like this.
  9. IMO, if you can get a bunch of film through, you can get a bomb through, and that's what they're trying to prevent. I'd love to shoot some film again at some point, but for all practical purposes, like travel, film is dead. You need to come to terms with this, and even accept the fact that digital delivers better and more flexible results. The battle is over; film lost.
    bgelfand likes this.
  10. As far as I know, TSA still allows requests for hand inspection of film. The claim is that Xrays are safe to ISO 800.

    If you can get there with only TSA, then get it processed where you are.

    Last I knew (a few years ago) the other countries I went through required scanning but, like TSA,
    claim that they are safe to ISO 800. (Not sure how many times through one of those.)

    But as above, I would go both film and digital, so much fewer rolls than you say, but
    enough to make it feel right.
  11. It shouldn't be a problem if you're taking film with you overseas from the US, if you can get it processed abroad. I've never had a problem with a TSA agent refusing to hand-inspect film, and I've actually had a few brief but pleasant conversations about film photography while they were doing so.

    But don't even think about trying to get the people at Heathrow to do a hand inspection. Trust me, I have tried--being as polite as possible, turning on (tastefully) the charm, explaining that some of the film will be pushed beyond ISO 800, etc. It's not gonna happen, they're curtly going to tell you to throw it through the scanner with everything else.

    As someone who splits time between the US and the UK and has made that trip frequently, I can assure you that you'll get no satisfaction or consideration at that airport. Bloody philistines.
  12. As definitively as you make your claim, I am still skeptical. I stand by my earlier suggestion to be polite yet defiant. If you simply refuse to put your film through the scanner, I can't see the security people letting you "hold up the show" for 10 minutes. A supervisor will be called, and I'm sure they will be reasonable. See the thread I just posted...
    Airport X-ray scanners, CT technology, and Heathrow
  13. I also think comments like this are just missing the point. There is no battle, and film is not "dead". That's just melodramatic rhetoric. People still sometimes like to shoot film and use vintage cameras. Of course film is not the most practical choice for most professional jobs, but that's not the point. I have a snazzy Sony mirrorless camera, but I also love using my Rolleiflex with Kodak Portra, and I love the images I get with zero post-processing. If someone tells me to "just use a digital camera", that's a bit silly on their part.
  14. So true, but ...
    It’s hard to square that with ...
    The latter may not be a full-blown “battle” but it certainly could be considered a skirmish and could easily get ugly, despite your rosy outlook of the results of such behavior.

    Neither extreme, film is dead nor defiance at the security gate, is necessary here. Film might not be the go-to choice for traveling is a reasonable possibility to consider, without declaring it dead and without confronting airport security workers.

    Since you can’t always get what you want, adapting to the situation by using digital may be a reasonable way to go. On the other hand, if one decides it’s not worth making photos unless film can be used, but one is not willing to confront security agents, one may decide to make domestic photos only.

    We humans sometimes tend to think in terms of extremes, especially when in Internet forums, but live in a world that we can make more practical and sensible.
  15. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    I can't see security holding up the line until a supervisor arrives to settle a dispute about hand checking. As has happened to me, they say "OK" and I go through and then watch the belt as my film in a clear plastic bag comes through the machine where they put it. What are you going to do? Tell them to put it in reverse to undo any damage?

    I have put the same film several times through the old machines with no problem.
    I don't know abut the newer CT scanners. And apparently neither do the airport security agents. "...these scanners may impact the camera film,"
  16. James, sorry, but what's the point of closing my thread? This thread here is mostly about someone who wants to ship film to some unnamed "cool North Atlantic islands", while my thread is about CT scanners at Heathrow airport. This forum should be for discussion, but also a nice respository of information. I felt I was doing a good deed by opening my thread with the information emailed to me by a Heathrow rep, but now nobody else will be able to reply in my thread with their own (future) Heathrow experiences. A shame. My thread is no more a duplicate of this thread, than this one is of the very many previous threads we've had on this site about film, airports, x-ray damage and so on.
  17. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    I had to use the same identical post in this thread as in the other thread. That seems like a duplicate to me. If you feel otherwise I will reopen your thread.
  18. Thank you, I would appreciate that. I do think that for those of us users living in Europe, it would be nice to have some local information about airports and film in the 2020s.

    And apologies to DB_Gallery for derailing his thread on his particular situation, where it seems hand screening has been considered and dismissed.
  19. I don't enjoy traveling and I hate flying so I avoid it as much as possible so I don't really know the latest airport security processes. But, having said that, I do sometines wonder if you can "force" a hand inspection by putting your film in a container that x-ray cannot penetrate? Then, your luggage gets pulled to the side and you're told to open the package for inspection. Would this work?
  20. "putting your film in a container that x-ray cannot penetrate?"

    Can't think of anything that would more arouse suspicion by TSA (or equivalent) than a lead lined container. If the local authorities have a policy that everything goes through the x-ray machine, then I think you will be SOL, assuming the airport scanner does damage to film. TSA policy has been to allow for a handcheck of film, though I don't think they will be amused by having to inspect 500 rolls of MF film the OP is planning to send.

    While it has no current impact for me, Kodak test of 400 ISO film (Portra) with only 1 pass though a new CT scanner showed measurable degradation. It is reasonable to expect that such CT scanners will become standard at most large airports in the near future. Also airport security in many countries have not been as accommodating with hand checking film as the TSA. As the OP has determined, there are no really good, fully dependable options. Buying and developing film locally would be a solution if feasible.

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