Traveling with Film + CT Scanners

New CT Scanners Can Toast Unprocessed Film

Did you know some U.S. airports have new X-ray scanning technology that can toast unprocessed film?

According to the Transportation Security Administration’s website, Computer Tomography (CT) “applies sophisticated algorithms for the detection of explosives and other threats by creating a 3D image that can be viewed and rotated 360 degrees for a thorough analysis.” Current technology for carry-on bag screening is only 2D.

According to the TSA, CT technology has been added to security checkpoints at the following airports as of November 2019. (If you don't see your airport on the list, we recommend you find out if they have CT Scanners before you fly.)

✈️ ATL (Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport)

✈️ BOS (Logan International Airport)

✈️ BWI (Baltimore-Washington International Airport)

✈️ CVG (Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport)

✈️ DCA (Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport)

✈️ DTW (Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport)

✈️ HOU (Houston Hobby Airport)

✈️ IAD (Washington-Dulles International Airport)

✈️ IND (Indianapolis International Airport)

✈️ JFK (John F. Kennedy International Airport)

✈️ LAX (Los Angeles International Airport)

✈️ MIA (Miami International Airport)

✈️ OAK (Oakland International Airport)

✈️ ORD (Chicago O’Hare International Airport)

✈️ PHX (Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport)

✈️ STL (St. Louis Lambert International Airport)

✈️ TPA (Tampa International Airport)

What is the best way to protect your film?

According to the TSA, you should place undeveloped film + cameras containing undeveloped film in your carry-on bags and request a hand inspection.

Kodak has updated their guidelines for the “Storage and Care of KODAK Photographic Materials” to reflect these new X-ray scanners, cautioning photographers to always hand-carry their film and always request a visual inspection at security checkpoints.

According to the Kodak publication, which is available here as a PDF, the end goal of TSA is to have this new technology at every airport. And shout-out to Kosmo Foto for originally breaking this important news here and here!

Best Practices for Traveling with Film

Keep those rolls safe and base fog-free by following these tips:

🛫 Avoid placing your film in a checked bag at all costs! The radiation of X-ray machines used to screen checked luggage is quite strong and will likely damage any film that passes through. What will this damage look like? Much like heat fog or base fog. (Read: cloudy, low contrast, extra grainy mush. Yum.) Occasionally, the damage also appears as a sin wave or line repeating through the roll. Fun times!

🛫 Instead, store your film in a zip-close bag and take it with you on board. Bonus: your precious rolls never leave your side! While checked luggage can disappear or take a lovely detour, your carry-on (and film) stays with you.

🛫 When you reach security, request your film be hand-checked in lieu of sending it through a potentially damaging X-ray machine. Request denied? Not to worry, 800 ISO and lower can travel safely through multiple normal (read: non-CT-scanning) security checkpoint machines without noticeable damage. But keep in mind, radiation is cumulative, so play it safe and request your film to be hand-checked whenever possible.

The Story Behind the Shot

We love Holland Lind’s story behind her shot above:

“When traveling, I love experiencing both hectic activity and calm contentment. This day I was late to the airport and had to dash to the gate in a tizzy. However, once I sat down in my beloved window seat, I felt a calm wash over me. At that moment, I looked over the aisle and saw this shot waiting for me. I am not the best at indoor photography, but that is the whole point—take a shot for the shot. It paid off, this is my favorite frame from that roll.

“My favorite aspect of travel is the intersection of busy and calm. While traveling, you experience the vast difference between hectic travel and calm adventure. While looking at these seats, you see a quite space—however, most of us know that in a few moments they will be filled with noise, luggage, people and movement. Experiencing these opposites is why I am drawn to travel, and I believe others are as well. Being able to capture that in an image is pure delight.

“Be good to yourself, your camera and the process. Support others and embrace the failures while always remaining open-minded to shots you had not planned on taking.” — Holland Lind

📷 by Holland Lind on Ilford HP5 with a Minoltax700 on the runway at MSP airport.