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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

10 Years After: Airport Security Survival Guide

Our expert guides you through the travails of travel for photographers in the post-9/11 era

Play-By-Play At The Screening Point. As I approach the machine, my cell phone, keys, wallet, iPod touch, watch, coins, passport and any other loose stuff, including that apparently new threat to national security, pocket lint (the new scanners are particularly adept at detecting it, and the TSA is strangely insistent on you removing it from your pocket before being cleared), are zipped into the pockets of the jacket; that jacket is thrown into a bin. That's what goes into the machine first.

After that bin, the laptop comes out with its "screener-approved" neoprene sleeve still on to protect it from bumps and scratches, and that goes in next. Then goes the roller bag and the Lowepro. My shoes, although they're laced, are easy enough to slip off and on, and are last. The shoes are sufficiently unattractive and bring up the rear nicely. I don't go through the scanner until I see those clodhoppers swallowed into the maw of the machine.

I've been body-scanned in the new scanners and subjected to new enhanced pat-downs, and I don't like either. While the pat-down may be more intrusive, the possibility for long-term negative physical effects are less—sure, they tell us the machines are safe, but we've been told things before that weren't quite the case.

I just go with the flow, scanner or pat-down, with the thought that either indignity is part of the added psychological price supplement we're paying to travel in these crazy times. Of course, travel has never been without security hassles; highwaymen, pirates, con men and thieves have preyed on travelers since man became mobile. It's not pretty, and it's not fair; it's just the way it is.

Option Play For Regional Craft. I pride myself on the relatively compact size of my carry-on combo. I've seen colleagues and nonphoto travelers lug on tons more stuff. I've never had a problem stowing this setup onboard except in certain, very small regional aircraft. There, almost any rolling bag will be "gate-checked"—that mysterious process where you leave your carry-on in the jetway, they take it away, usually tagging it and giving you a receipt, put it somewhere in the hold of the plane, but give it back to you in the jetway of your arrival airport. It's a good system, but your carry-on is temporarily out of your control and sight, and subject to baggage-handler treatment and stacking in the hold. My Think Tank is well designed and provides protection, but it's not meant to be a checked bag.

When I know I'll be flying in smaller craft, I'll swap out my usual computer bag for a hard-sided Pelican Storm Case iM2500. It's legal carry-on size, but it's bigger than the Airport AirStream. I don't use it all the time because it's more conspicuous and sometimes will get flagged for checking on crowded flights on full-sized jets. Plus, I like the layout and feel of the Airport AirStream much better.

For gate-checks, the Storm Case is perfect. It protects the computer and drives from bumps and bruises. I carry a TSA-approved lock inside of it, and before I put the bag down on the ramp, I lock it closed, making it that much harder to pop open and lift a computer or drive.

For a schedule of Bob Krist's workshops and seminars, check his website, www.bobkrist.com, under the "Teach and Talk" heading.


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