|Jeremy Hoare is a freelance travel photographer residing in London, England. Phone/Fax: +44 20 7722 2065. Email: email@example.com Web: http://www.travelwriters.com/jeremyhoare|
X Rays. Harmful or Not?
The reason for X-ray machines at airports cannot be overstated enough; they are to prevent the taking on board of weapons and other devices which could lead to a hijack or destruction of the aircraft.
So Im all for security and fly happily because of it - but I do worry about my films and the question that keeps coming up, very relevant to anyone who travels and takes pictures -- are airport X-ray machines harmful to film in spite of the signs saying
they are not? The fact is, some are, some are not.
One that is definitely not safe is the checked-in baggage x-ray machine which is in use at most international airports now. NEVER put film into your checked luggage because this machine, that can detect Semtex explosive, also damages film. A major BBC wildlife film shot over months in Papua New Guinea was ruined because it went inadvertently into checked luggage, so had to be re-shot at great expense.
The hand luggage x-ray machines do seem to be safe, though. I checked this by making a roll go through ten different ones, in various countries without any ill effects and these pictures are now in a stock library.
Before I travel, all my films are removed from their boxes, taken out of the plastic containers, and the film leaders stuck down with electrical tape, the ends of which are turned over for ease of removal later. This saves a surprising amount of bulk and weight, but the main reason is that I can put them into a clear plastic bag, which I always try and get hand-searched. Airport security people can see straightaway that the bag is only film, although I have met some photographers who just blithely put it through the machine.
This method has been very successful even in sticky places such as Zurich, Switzerland, where I was in transit recently, and hadnt been out of the airport.
In some countries around the world I would also protest strongly about putting film through their machines, guessing that they were not good for film. You have to be seen to be a professional photographer as well as confident and assertive at the time - but most airport security people want an easy life. Asking for a hand-search doesnt work in some airports though, most notably in the UK and also for Eurostar trains from London to Paris or Brussels.
Bear in mind before flying that you are only supposed to have 5 or 6KG of hand luggage, which comes up fast if you carry a lot of film as well as cameras.
But never forget the x-ray machines and the people that man them are only trying to protect you - although it might not seem like it at the time.
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