Flying with Film
This will be a rolling review and I will update it as I use the product. As a film photographer, I have lost more than a few rolls due to flying and security checks over the last few years. Last year, I lost two rolls from radiation damage and now that I am flying to South Africa for a little holiday, I decided to try and fix this situation. I discovered last year that most of the film that was damaged from radiation was the film that I pushed to 800 or 1600 but the slower films were fine. Living and working in China means that I have to go through many security checkpoints every day and when I fly, my bags get scanned all the time.
The image above is an example of damage to a film shot caused by radiation. I flew with some film to Vietnam and a lot of the shots had the same damage. It looks almost like a reflection or a light-leak but it is caused by the radiation. It can be very frustrating when it happens to your shots and I did not want to go through this again.
This year I decided to try and protect my film and count the number of times my bag gets scanned to South Africa and back. To protect my film, I bought the Domke FilmGuard bag, which is lead lined and it is supposed to protect the film inside from radiation. The bag is a little expensive, but when it arrived, I was surprised at how heavy the bag was. I chose the medium sized bag and it could carry all the film I was taking with me to South Africa really easily. I could easily have doubled the amount of film I stuck in the bag.
The film feels really safe in the bag, the lead lining feels like it provides some extra protection so I decided to pack the film into my luggage that I was checking into the flight. I will see how well it survives from a flight from Shanghai to Johannesburg South Africa. So far, I am writing this article from the Pudong International Airport in Shanghai and I have been through 13 bag scans and now my luggage is checked in. Once I get to South Africa, I will check the film to see if it got any damage. I will push all the 400 Iso black and white film to 1600 for this trip, so if the bag does not protect the film from radiation, it will show up when I return to China and develop the film.
I arrived back in China after a few weeks in South Africa, and I have developed the film that I shot. Unfortunately, I did not get many shots that I liked but this was a holiday for me. I only ended up shooting two rolls of film the whole time I was in South Africa but I did get to test the Filmguard bag. I ended up going through over 30 x-ray scans with bags, thanks to the added security in China for the Chinese New year. Even though I did not really enjoy the shots that I got on my holiday, the film came out perfect and I cannot see any damage from flying this time. All the shots above were pushed one stop to ISO 800, which is where I started to find some damage the last time I flew with film. I am very happy with the bag and I consider it to be a good purchase and I will be using a lot more in the future.