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iShutterbug

Need advice for my LTM European vacation

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My kit:

 

Hi, Leica friends, my wife and I are going on our first European vacation and I am going to take my IIIf and IIIg and some lenses. I will be shooting Portra 160NC, Fuji Pro 160S and FujiPro 160C, a total of 20 rolls which I will take with me. I figure ASA 160 should survive the X-ray machines? We will be traveling with carry-on luggage only and will be on two flights, Tampa, Florida to London, then in a little over two weeks, Zurich back to Tampa.

 

We will be staying in London, Paris, Nice (Monte Carlo), Rome (Vatican), Florence, Maranello, Bellagio, Zurich, most of the time traveling by Eurorail. Are there X-ray inspections at the borders of these countries for customs I should plan for?

 

I'm an ex-1960s race driver and I plan to visit Silverstone and the Lotus factory, Le Mans, Monte Carlo GP site, Mille Miglia sites, Monza, and the Ferrari and Maserati factories and museums in Maranello and Modena. Also I want to do a "007" and play the Casino in Monte Carlo--do they allow cameras? My wife is more cultured than I and will be taking me to all the museums and galleries we can fit in along the way--and there are many. How strict are they about cameras? I'm taking my Summarit for available light in museums and night street shots. As well the carbon-fiber Benro C169 "Travel Angel" tripod http://www.benro.com/products_details_TRCB169.html#3 because I want to make every shot count. We've already scheduled a few small tours in each location but mostly we're on our own and she did all the planning and scheduling.

 

I know we just have barely enough time to shoot the iconic sites in these famous cities and chronicle this once-in-a-lifetime trip for us. My wife's 70th birthday will occur while we're in Florence and I plan to photo her topless on the Riveria where she will put all the other girls to shame.

 

While planning for this trip--which once again I'm turning into a photo vacation--I learned that at each major tourist site we will be in a den of thieves! How disappointing. So I purchased a lot of "armored" accessories to take along--camera case, straps, duffle bag, etc. These are made by Pacsafe Anti-theft Travel Bags and Accessories . Hopefully they will think my equipment is too old to bother with!

 

I am really worried about getting my film fogged. Are there any 1-hour film developing stores in London, Paris, Nice, Rome, or Zurich? I just want the films developed, I have a Dimage Scan Elite 5400 at home and can do the rest.

 

Well, that's it for now, I'll wait for comments. Am I being foolhardy shooting film with my DAG CLA'd LTMs on this trip? Will the film survive? Should I be more discreet and just take one body and two or three lenses--like the IIIg with 35 Summicron ASPH, 50 Summarit, and 90 Elmarit?

 

Thanks for your input and please don't make too much fun of me for my big plans. I just love my Leicas and the pictures they give me and I don't want to leave them at home, not on this trip.

 

Don

Edited by iShutterbug

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You will have your bags X-rayed when taking the Eurostar between Paris and London, otherwise provided you are travelling by road or rail you will not have anything X-rayed when travelling internally in Western Europe. On your flight back you will probably struggle to avoid your film being scanned. However provided you don't put film in your check in luggage you are unlikely to have any problems with fogging - I've had fast film scanned maybe a dozen times on some flight around Europe and have never had a problem.

 

As for safely, just be sensible. Thieves tend to be opportunists, so try to avoid giving them that opportunity.

 

If there's one piece of equipment that may cause you problems it's the tripod. You may be approached by the boys in blue if you try to use one as it's sometimes deemed to be a safety hazard.

 

You will find 1hr labs in all the major towns and cities. You will also find running water, flushing toilets and McDonald's - two out of three ain't bad.

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You will have your bags X-rayed when taking the Eurostar between Paris and London, otherwise provided you are travelling by road or rail you will not have anything X-rayed when travelling internally in Western Europe. On your flight back you will probably struggle to avoid your film being scanned. However provided you don't put film in your check in luggage you are unlikely to have any problems with fogging - I've had fast film scanned maybe a dozen times on some flight around Europe and have never had a problem.

 

As for safely, just be sensible. Thieves tend to be opportunists, so try to avoid giving them that opportunity.

 

If there's one piece of equipment that may cause you problems it's the tripod. You may be approached by the boys in blue if you try to use one as it's sometimes deemed to be a safety hazard.

 

You will find 1hr labs in all the major towns and cities. You will also find running water, flushing toilets and McDonald's - two out of three ain't bad.

 

Thanks for your comment. Yes, we're taking the Chunnel from London to Paris, thanks for that tip, I'll be ready for inspection. Oh no, that tripod wasn't cheap and I don't hold a camera too still. Can you be more specific as to where there might be problems using it? Museums? On the street? At touristy sites? I can see how I wouldn't want to use it in a crowded area, and should be really careful if using it for time delay self-portraits and it's unattended. (It's going to be a pain anyway untightening and retightening four segments on each leg each time I use it--but I was resolved to use it and try for 100% keepers.)

Edited by iShutterbug

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I learned that at each major tourist site we will be in a den of thieves! How disappointing.

Where did you learn that?

Finally, some museums don't allow cameras.

 

You're a car buff and you aren't going to the new Porsche museum in Zuffenhausen? Shame.

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The tripod is mainly a safety issue. My advice would be to use it and see what happens. You probably won't be able to use it in museums or galleries, but in the street you may well be fine.

 

For a two week trip you're fitting a lot in, but I see why you'd want to do that. I'd consider taking more film though. For the sort of trip you're doing, and the number of places you're visiting, 20 rolls doesn't seem a lot - but we're all different when it comes to how many shots we take.

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Finally, some museums don't allow cameras

 

You're certainly ok in the Mussee d'Orsay and Louvre in Paris provided you don't use flash.

 

If you are going to the Louvre, don't underestimate the size of the place, it's huge. When I lived in Paris I had an annual pass and used to pop in on a regular basis, even so I don't think I came close to seeing everything.

 

At the Mussee d'Orsay the impressionist works are on the top floor.

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I think that most museums will frown upon your merely bringing tri- or monopods, let alone using them. You might get away with one camouflaged as a walking stick. However, in some museums the point is moot as they don't allow you to take photos, anyway.

 

I presume that you are aware that Europe uses electricity at voltages and frequencies different from those in the USA, and that practically every country uses its own kind of plugs, too. Not that your LTM need much recharging, though.

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Where did you learn that? Finally, some museums don't allow cameras.

 

You're a car buff and you aren't going to the new Porsche museum in Zuffenhausen? Shame.

 

I know it sounds bad but here's one source: Rick Steves' Europe: Outsmarting Thieves

 

Yes, I hated to omit Germany this trip but there just wasn't time. I would love to drive the Nurburgring course, and visit the Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Porsche factories and museums, in honor of those marques I've owned. However my first car was an MGA (which I bought with shooting the IIIf) and my first race car was a Ferrari (which I bought with the IIIf and my 4x5) so that's my direction here.

 

I've tried a monopod but it just doesn't give me enough support. I really can't think of any work of art I'd want to photograph in a museum except Michelangelo's David in Florence, but I see it's now behind a wall of plexiglass, and I don't know if cameras are allowed in the Academie, for which we have tickets (and there's a Mapplethorpe exhibit) but I heard there's a copy out in the plaza, so that's good enough for me.

 

What I see happening is we're out and about and I have the camera bag (and probably tripod) and Joanie, my wife, will see a museum and want to go in. Well, what happens if they don't allow cameras or tripod--do they generally have a secure place to check my equipment, or do I have to stay outside?

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The tripod is mainly a safety issue. My advice would be to use it and see what happens. You probably won't be able to use it in museums or galleries, but in the street you may well be fine.

 

For a two week trip you're fitting a lot in, but I see why you'd want to do that. I'd consider taking more film though. For the sort of trip you're doing, and the number of places you're visiting, 20 rolls doesn't seem a lot - but we're all different when it comes to how many shots we take.

 

Yes, we're packing a lot in but that's the way we like to do it, mostly it's an issue of what we can afford timewise and moneywise. On these tightly scheduled marathons I often feel like a cross between a photojournalist (at best) and a snapshot-taker (at worst)--there's hardly any time to be a real photographer--but I always get enough good shots to be proud of and that makes it worthwhile.

 

We've always wanted to go to Europe, both of our ancestor families are from there (England, Germany for me and Switzerland, Northern Italy for Joanie). We wanted to do it while we still can, and we probably won't be that way again. Also who knows what will happen to the dollar and the world situation in the near future?

 

I'm taking 20 rolls and planning to get more there if I need to. Hopefully I can get some developed over there and not have to worry about them getting fogged by X-ray.

Edited by iShutterbug

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I think that most museums will frown upon your merely bringing tri- or monopods, let alone using them. You might get away with one camouflaged as a walking stick. However, in some museums the point is moot as they don't allow you to take photos, anyway.

 

I presume that you are aware that Europe uses electricity at voltages and frequencies different from those in the USA, and that practically every country uses its own kind of plugs, too. Not that your LTM need much recharging, though.

 

I'm hoping those places that don't allow photography will have a secure place to check my equipment, or let me carry it without using it.

 

Yes, thank you, I bought one of those multi-country plug adapters. And we're already joking that we'll probably need a vacation after all this is over--to recharge us!

 

What lens focal length(s) do you think is best for the sites we'll be visiting? I figure there'll be crowded plazas, narrow streets, open markets, lots of architecture and landscapes. I'm guessing 35 Summicron Asph would be most wanted to include a lot, then 90 to reach out, and a fast 50 for available light indoors and city night shots. That's why I'm bringing those. Good choice?

 

Oh, I forgot to mention we're English speaking only--how much trouble do you think we'll have over there? From what we've been told, English is almost a second language for today's Europeans, is that right?

Edited by iShutterbug

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Hi,

 

You will be fine with speaking English in most places - especially if you are in 'tourist' locations and places such as museums etc., but its good to learn a few basic phrases such as hello, thankyou, please etc.

 

I wouldn't worry about x rays, they've never caused me problems, but you could get some film processed along the way. In London I'd recommend Snappy Snaps for quick good quality processing.

 

Most museums and galleries in the UK prohibit photography. You can carry your bag with you but just don't get the camera or tripod out. They also have cloakrooms if you want to leave your stuff while you walk around.

 

As for using the tripod in the street you should be OK but you might get some hassle from police/security types, especially here in London, who will suspect that you are a terrorist! Read the threads on this forum for advice and keep a copy of the photographers rights with you. There is a trend for some people to assume that photography in public of others is illegal!! (there are stronger privacy laws in some countries i.e. in France but it covers publication of an image which requires the consent of someone in your image - it is perfectly legal to take a photo for you r own use). Don't worry - none of this is a major problem, but you may well be approached so know your rights just in case.

 

Choice of kit/lenses is very much down to personal preference and shooting style. I would try to take the minimum of kit. Definately the 35, maybe just one of the 50's and the 90 if you must. I would actually suggest something wider if you have it in the 15 - 28 mm range - Rome especially is a city for wideangles (if you don't already have a wider lens then look at one of the Voigtlanders I have the 25 Skopar which is a superb little lens) You could travel really light with a body and the 35 but I understand the desire for a back up just in case.

 

Thieves? Yes they are no doubt out there but as has been said just use common sense and you will be fine. If you are going to use your camera on a tripod I wouldn't leave it unattended though. If you want a shot of you and your wife set it up and ask another tourist to take the shot. Keep your bags with you at all times and don't leave them lying under a table if you are at a cafe etc., or at least put the strap through your leg!

 

My final piece of advice would be most of all - enjoy the trip, try to take in the sights and experiences rather than treating it as a photo shoot. Dare I say it, leave the cameras in the hotel sometimes! You could also see if any fellow Leica users on this forum are free to meet up along the way - I'm sure some of us London members would be happy to show you real London pubs!

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Remember that European cities are probably more civilised than N.Y.C. Fresh film of all the usual brands is available just about everywhere, and one hour processing too is still there at least in the major cities. Your tripod will soon be felt to be a great pain in your [ ... ]. I would advise renting a wheelbarrow, to judge from that picture.

 

Years of backpacking in Lapland above the tree line and far from all roads taught me two things:

 

(a) What you don't bring along you don't have, but ...

 

(

... small seemingly weightless objects add up and break your back.

 

If you insist on taking all that hardware, you should at least carry it in a photo backpack to equalise the load across both shoulders. And remember that openly carrying a tripod will immediately get you marked as a German Tourist ... The tripod is their tribal emblem.

 

The old man from the Age of the Two Lens Kit

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All quite achievable and you should have a ball. I've done quite a bit of traveling through Europe and Eurail is definitely the way to go. No navigating, no tricky drivers, no parking, no gas stations, get up and stretch, fast trains take you to the center of town.

 

And traveling light and taking carry-on is also the way to go.

 

Check out: Leisure and Business Travel Packing List - Travel Light with One Bag! for more tips.

 

No slide film? No matter. You won't have any problem with medium speed film.

 

That is a nice looking Gitzo but I'm not sure how often you will need it. If you take it, make sure to get some nice night shots.

 

If it were me, I'd take just one body and three lenses, plus one meter. I found I used mostly 24, 35 and 50 with the M6. A W/A -- say the CV 15 or a 21 -- may prove very handy for churches and other buildings. There should be just enough light for handheld shots.

 

PM me if you need any other suggestions on places to stay. Lots of good reviews on Reviews of vacations, hotels, resorts, vacation and travel packages - TripAdvisor.

 

More on travel photography at Travel Photography forum from Photo.net.

 

Have fun! And watch out for overexposure on the Riviera!

 

David

 

David Killick, Freelance Journalist and Photographer, New Zealand

Edited by NZDavid

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Thanks again everybody for your great tips and links! You've given us some very valuable information that answered our questions and eliminated a lot of anxiety.

 

I still plan to take the tripod because it's so small and light (and I anguished so much on whether to get it or not) but it will only go out with me in a setting where and when it's definitely going to be used, I won't be carrying it around all the time, and hopefully there'll be plenty of light I won't need it most of the time.

 

I agree about being able to go as wide as possible, but I'm also an old 4x5 photog and I'm used to tilts and shifts for architecture work. Canon was supposed to be coming out with a 17mm t/s lens (also a new 24mm t/s) that I was thinking about that should be the ticket for close quarters architecture shots, but I haven't seen it for sale, besides I've spent all my money anyway.

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One further idea, if your're taking the fast train in France - the TGV - some of the carriages are double decker, and the view from the top deck can be excellent. So I'd try to get those seats.

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...openly carrying a tripod will immediately get you marked as a German Tourist ... The tripod is their tribal emblem.

 

I happen to be German, and have so far failed to note that kind of tribal emblem. Sandals, yes, but a tripod? I for one have never carried one (missed it on several occasions though), but so be it.

 

Enjoy your trip to and in Europe!

 

Andy

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What lenses you should take with you really depends on what sort of photos you take. When I’m visiting places like Paris, Rome, Venice, and Florence, my prime lens has always been the 35mm. In these old cities, streets are narrower than in the US, and pavements (sidewalks) even more so. So think wide-angle. For a trip like yours, I’d consider getting a 28mm if you are planning to photograph buildings and general street views.

 

I’d advise you to leave the tripod at home. In those narrow streets, you will rarely have the space to set it up, and it is almost certain to be banned in churches and museums. My late father reckoned that wonders could be achieved indoors using a Leitz table tripod, Leitz small ball & socket head, and lots of ingenuity. Even without these handy gadgets, doors, doorframes, church pews and other objects can sometimes be used as improvised camera supports when shooting indoors.

 

The Summarit will be a good choice for the 50mm lens, giving you that bit of extra speed when you need it at the price of a bit of softness.

 

Where carvings, paintings, frescos or tapestries are well lit (and photography is permitted), a 90mm lens lets you pick out smaller areas, or stand further back to reduce the amount of upward tilting required.

 

160ISO film will be OK making multiple passes through X-ray machines – I’ve had no problem with 400ISO pushed to 800 even on trips where it’s been X-rayed more than half a dozen times. I’ve always had my film processed once I’d returned home. But *always* pack film in you hand luggage when travelling by air – the X-ray machines used for ‘behind the scenes’ scanning of suitcases at airports may not be film-friendly, but those used for hand luggage are OK.

 

I always budgeted for three 36-exposure cassettes per day on city vacations (I use an M8 now, but still have my older Leicas, including a IIIg and my father’s IIIb). If that’s too much to carry in your hand luggage, you should find a good selection of film at the downstairs section of Jessops in New Oxford Street, which is in central London.

 

If you are bringing both bodies, consider making one your daylight camera (with your normal film) and the other your indoor camera (with fast film – I used Provia 400). In churches and museums, you may find yourself facing light levels requiring 1/30 at f1.5, even with fast film.

 

The general rule for museums is that photography without flash is OK in many UK and French museums (including the British Museum and the Louvre) but not in many Italian museums and churches (I often think that Italy should rename itself the Republic of Nofoto-Nofoto).

 

Once I’d passed the age of 60, my experience on holiday was that when you are out and about sightseeing day after day, that camera bag feels a bit heavier each day. So I make sure to carry only the items of camera gear that are really being used.

 

You will pass through customs on arrival in the UK, and will have your passport checked when you check in for the Eurostar train for France. There are no customs or passport checks between the other countries you are visiting. Your baggage and hand luggage will be X-rayed by Eurostar using a scanner that’s safe for film. After that, you are unlikely to face any further X-ray machines until you check in at Zurich for your flight home.

 

When using Italian trains, you need to punch your ticket in a bright yellow machine either on or close to the platform before boarding the train. In theory, you could be fined by an on-board ticket inspector if you don’t do this, though he would probably ignore the rule when dealing with tourists.

 

Language is unlikely to be a problem in the cities you will be visiting – for example, restaurant menus in tourist areas are often multi-lingual. But many phrase books will include the words for common dishes (handy in small restaurants away from prime tourist areas), buying admission tickets etc, and for saying good morning/evening when entering shops (normal practice in France and Italy) and for saying thank you and goodbye. (The UK is fairly close to the US in terms of manners, but the French and Italians are a bit more formal.)

 

As regards crime, take the same precautions that you would when visiting any big US city – the level of risk is probably similar or even less. Pickpockets are the main threat in the tourist areas, as my brother discovered in London more than a decade ago. In the mid-1990s, Rome had a problem with groups of gipsy children (expert pickpockets) who would ‘mob’ the unsuspecting tourist, but I saw no sign of them during a brief visit a couple of years ago.

 

Enjoy your trip!

 

Doug Richardson

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My general rule is take no more equipment than you can keep on your person at all times.

Put it down at a sidewalk cafe, and it is gone. Wrap the strap around your leg or chair.

 

But carrying all that stuff just makes you look like a target. 70 years old, a thief can do a purse snatch while running by. I have seen it done by a guy on a scooter. Any bag I use would have wire in the straps to stop the cutters and be secured by both shoulder and waist belts. It makes the carry easier too. Keep the gear and your spouse on one side or the other. If a bunch of beggars surround you, grab for the gear first thing.

 

The one thing you have going for you is it is a film camera which is percieved as no value today.

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Hi Don,

For your travel in Europa, there is the TGV France and Europa (per ex.to go to Montecarlo)

On place you can hire a car (Avis, Hertz etc..)

For museums in France in Paris, the Louvre is closed on Tuesday but the museum of Orsay is opened and closed on Monday

You can take photos inside without flash (do not forget films 400 asa or high speed)

You do not have more thieves in Europe than to the United States but it is necessary to pay attention

For films there are often porticos of security in X-rays (I put my films in an anti sachet X Ray)

How long will remain you in France? so for a long time, it is possible to see each other (send me a MP so that I give you my co-ordinates)

Have a good trip, good holiday and good photos

Henry

link for reservation TGV :

Welcome to TGV-EUROPE.COM

Links for museum:

Hours | Louvre Museum

Musée d'Orsay: Opening hours

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When using Italian trains, you need to punch your ticket in a bright yellow machine either on or close to the platform before boarding the train.

also in France, for TGV a reservation is necessary.

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