Friday, 28 February 2014

Wish you were here..........

I have been fortunate over many years in having the opportunity to travel to some wonderful places. Most of the travel has been work related, photographing, teaching, masterclasses, conferences or exhibitions. People often ask, because my photographs of the landscape tend towards those prosaic elements, if I enjoy or appreciate the 'grander' scenes. 
Lake Huron, Ontario, Canada.

View from the Empire State building, New York
I suppose I am lucky to be able to spend time to 'stand and stare' when I'm photographing for my exhibition work and appreciate the detail, the minutiae. Having the space and time to be able to absorb the entire experience of being in these places is important for my work. However, that does not preclude or exclude my appreciation or enjoyment of 'the moment' when I arrive at somewhere, either by design or chance that I can appreciate for its beauty or 'tourist appeal'. Having studied the landscape and its place in art history at an academic level and having made bodies of work dealing with the landscape at its place in society has not made me cynical towards other attitudes to it. Nor has it made me less appreciative of my good fortune to have the opportunity to view those visual 'icons' that for many, define the place visited. 

Traunkirchen, Austria
In many ways, I am able to separate the two very different visual experiences I encounter when I am wearing my two different 'hats' and appreciate both on their own merits. I think it would take a very tough and dispassionate kind of person to regard some of the wonderful places I have experienced with a dismissive cynicism. There is a difference between academic deconstruction and discussion of the landscape but  only regarding this as 'legitimate'. To have the ability to appreciate and understand both aspects and also to be able to contexualise these appropriately is a bonus for me. Whenever I land somewhere new I inevitably browse through the tourist shops to examine the postcards to see what is regarded as the definitive views. I suppose this combines both elements of my interest. I want to see and appreciate the classic views as much as anyone but I also want to put those elements into the context of what I have already seen and studied of that particular geographic area. 
Vermont, USA

This applies particularly to those places where I may be working.  To fully understand somewhere I am studying and representing in my own style and with my own attitudes I think that it's necessary to study the wider picture. Hopefully though, and I think I succeed in this, I can do that, then move on, make my photographs without spoiling or diluting my 'tourist' experience. What do I do with those 'tourist snaps' I take? If you have read yesterday's comments you will know - I put them in the family albums of course.

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Nostalgia ain't what it used to be.

My Dad's folding Kodak and family photographs
I am always grateful to my father for fostering my interest in photography. He bought a camera at the same time that he joined the Royal Navy at the start of WW2 and used it all the way through on his extensive service and travels. He then used it afterwards on family occasions. I still have it and huge numbers of his photographs. He was lucky to have access to film throughout his war service as it was rationed in the UK. He was friendly with various ship's photographers who kept him supplied.

A day out on the bikes, 1948/9
A day out on the bikes, 1948/9
After the war and during my early life he documented what every family did with a camera then - the high days and holidays. I treasure them both as family memories and documents of another time. I grew up with the documenting of family occasions as being taken for granted. Importantly these prints were kept safe - as, even more importantly, were the negatives. I still have those too and they are in good condition. I know that they are largely out of fashion today but I love both the concept and the artefact of the family photo album. I still keep them, take pleasure in sticking the prints in and then, every so often browsing the contents to jog memories. Dating and identifying characters and locations at the time is important. It's too late after the event. 'We will always remember the date etc.' is fatal. Time flies and details are forgotten. 

I love the permanence of objects such as this if they are cared for. While I have always been a supporter of the democratic nature of photography and don't have a real problem with the proliferation of images today, I still think they should be cherished. I do worry that so many images now are deleted, not archived properly and not stored safely in a digital archive that we will lose a great part of our social history. It's not always possible to say at the moment of taking any photograph what it's future significance might be. 

Caernarfon Castle, 1950/1
There are also times when new technology can come to the aid of the old. While all my Father's black and white prints are still in good condition, (they must have been well processed and kept), His early colour prints have faded. This, despite being kept in albums in the dark. Until fairly recently colour print technology dictated that the dyes used were fugitive and for that reason major museums and galleries were reluctant to purchase colour prints for their collections. 

Coach trip, Caernarfon Castle, 1950/1
However, my Father wisely kept the negatives safely and they survived well. I remember him telling me that he had to send the exposed film off to Kodak in Rochester, New York for processing, as in the years just after the war very 
few places here undertook that service for amateurs. Scanning the negatives on a high-end scanner brought them back to life. The 1950's colour adding to the nostalgia. In many ways they are 'throw away' snaps but I find the social detail fascinating. The clothes in the austerity early fifties in the UK, the pre-war coaches and what would have been a memorable and rare holiday for my family.

So a plea. Please save your family photographs. Do print them out, you can't rely on hard drives or 'cloud' technology, they are not in your control. Believe me, you will miss them if you lose them.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Magic moments.

Writers often talk about starting a new book and the terror of staring at the first blank page. For landscape photographers maybe it's all about the first field trip, or maybe producing the first image that seems to work. In every body of work there seems to be a turning point where things begin to come together after slow or false starts. It's the time when the ideas become clear and the direction the work should take emerge from the images and a style and strategy to take the work forward sort of pops out at you. 

I remember a few such moments, some are there out in the field while photographing and some happen back in the studio when looking at work prints from a recent field trip. Sometimes it may be a chance happening or conversation that simple changes your mood and mindset. 

An example of the first was when I was struggling a bit with the 'Wildwood' work. I had made several field trips to Ty Canol forest in Pembrokeshire but found the resulting images too typical of what everyone imagined an ancient forest to be. 
Ty Canol Forest, Penbrokeshire, Wales
The images of the ancient oaks and mossy rocks were very 'Tolkienesque' and did not evoke the kind of intrigue that I wished from this body of work. I finally abandoned working in that forest and chose to work in places that didn't appear to have any sense of order and where the images didn't necessarily present themselves as complete and already framed as in Ty Canol. In other words one had to 'hunt' and work a little harder to make sense of it all. As with all bodies of work there were the first images in this new place and strategy that marked the change and the trigger that opened up the possibilities. Some remain after the final edit as being relevant to the overall body of work and some 'bite the dust'. One of the earliest that remained in the series and also made both the exhibition and the book was this image of Pen Gelli forest.

Pen Gelli Forest, Pembrokeshire
An example of an event that triggered a change in fortune for a particular body of work happened to me in Ireland in about 1987. I had been having a hard time making work for no apparent reason, although the weather had been appalling for over a week. I work in pretty much all weathers but there are times when it does preclude doing anything worthwhile. It had been one of those weeks. I was in the west of Ireland, the Connemara region of Co. Galway and I was almost at the point of despair. Miles from anywhere on a bleak coastal road, the only traffic we had seen for days, on the days we could see beyond the mist, was a pony and cart with a family travelling along.
It was probably on the wettest, mistiest, bleakest day that I was at the point of giving up. Not even a pub for many miles to retreat to with a Guinness. I was still trying though. Under the wet focussing cloth heavy and clammy with the rain and mist I was struggling to make sense of something on the steamed up ground glass that was running with water. It was then that I was aware of someone standing alongside me and I lifted up the focussing cloth to see. A man with a bicycle had appeared out of the mist from nowhere. Man and cycle both looked of a certain vintage. Both well used, shabby appearance held together with baler twine. The man was quite short with a long coat against the rain that almost reached to the ground and wrapped around him with plenty to spare. The only thing peeping out from the bottom were his boots and cycle clips. The wrapping was held in place with more baler twine. All topped by a hat of uncertain type, vintage and colour. To be honest, I wasn't in the mood for polite conversation. I am often approached when I'm using the large field camera by people asking why I use "an old plate camera" etc. etc. etc. I then have to go into long explanations; "it's not old, it's not a plate camera, yes they are all new state of the art lenses" and so on. Today I was definitely not in the mood. He looked up at me, "good day sir". "Oh, good morning". "Now then sir, tell me this 'ting now, why in God's name are you way out here in the rain with that big wooden 'ting?" Pointing to my camera. I was thinking the same thing about him and his bike. Oh dear, I thought, here we go. "Well, I'm undertaking a project photographing both the Welsh and Irish landscapes which will be shown jointly in an exhibition touring both countries". "Well now sir, that's a grand 'ting". 'Now tell me this sir, what do you think of those wonderful cloud pictures - his 'equivalents' made by Alfred Stieglitz?" 
Alfred Stieglitz, 'Equivalent Series, 1925-'28

My jaw dropped, I wasn't expecting this. "Oh I love those, very modernist and went quite against the trend at the time in the USA". The conversation about the American modernist tradition in photography between us went on in similar vein for some time. He then bid me farewell. "Good day to you sir, God bless and good luck" and off into the mist on his bike he went. Had I been taught a lesson never to judge anyone or anything by appearance? Within moments, the rain stopped, the mist cleared and the sun shone. The rest of the trip was a great success in terms of my work. To this day I wonder if it really happened. Where did he come from? Where did he go? Did I just imagine it? No matter, my luck changed and the project went well. 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The meaning of art

The recent re-opening of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, plus the news that apparently the only painting to be replaced in its original spot is Rembrandt's 'Night Watch'. Or to give its proper title; 'Officers and Men of the Amsterdam Kloveniers Militia, the Company of Captain Frans Banning Cocq', 1642. The news took me back to my first visit there in 1962, just a few weeks before I left school and started work. One of the teachers who took us, grabbed my shoulder and said, 'You like a bit of art Davis don't you? Then get a load of this......' I was sort of gently frog-marched down various corridors until I was standing in front of the famous painting. I was mesmerised. My interest in 'art' and painting had begun really the year previously when the same two teachers had taken a group of us to Paris. 
Me in Paris, 1961. No idea who madam is!
After the obligatory visit to the Louvre, I had become very taken by many of the French landscape paintings there. On returning from that trip, I began to pay regular visits to the national Museum in Cardiff which held a wonderful collection of French Impressionist paintings. Hence my teacher's insistence on getting me to see something he thought might broaden my knowledge of art. He was right. 
Peter Galassi - Before Photography: Painting and the 
Invention of Photography, 1981

However, I probably didn't realise how right he was to foster my interest in art until many years later when I began to make those connections between some of the work I had seen in museums and the history of photography. I found that I understood the influences that some forms of painting had on the early photographers and how some painters long before photography were making images and using viewpoints and image constructions that would be mirrored by photography over a century later. The painting by Thomas Jones of a 'Wall in Naples' 1782 which was in the National Museum of Wales collection was used by Peter Galassi for the cover of his book (above). Things began to come together.
Gendarmes, Paris, 1961

The Paris trip did more for me than this. I felt empowered with this new enthusiasm for things visual. Although I had been photographing for a year or so by now it wasn't a very serious part of my life but my eyes were opened in Paris and I gained a new confidence as long I was behind the camera. Emboldened, I wandered around the city capturing scenes that were new and fascinating to me and things I had only previously seen in books. I was, of course, very fortunate to find things
Gendarme, Paris, 1961
I was passionate about and my niche in life. My eyes had been opened by exposure to art and artworks and I really did now see the world in another way. I was also lucky to have gained, in a small way, the ability to capture portions of this with my camera. In those days I was something of a rarity owning a camera and making my own prints etc. The truth is that even then I had no idea of the impact that it would have on my later life life, or just where it would lead.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Be prepared......!

I have talked before about the logistics and dangers of taking photographic equipment abroad. I try very hard to be organised and prepare for every eventuality. I was a scout a long time ago and 'be prepared' was the motto. Taking large format cameras about with their attendant lenses, tripods, film and various accessories requires almost military logistics. 
10" x 8" camera on location in Sardinia 2000

So, together with all the equipment and all the ancillary requisites there is a lot to think about. You also have to be prepared for possible damage or mechanical malfunctions. I always have a few lenses of various focal lengths so if one should pack up for some reason I have others. Using a wooden field camera also means that glue, screwdrivers and gaffer tape can fix most things if the worst happens. A 10" x 8" field camera also has one extra extremely vulnerable component - the ground glass viewing screen. Over many years I had never broken one, but I always, always, take a couple of spares with me, safely packed in foam in an old film box. 

One week into the last of my field trips to Sardinia, in the mountainous Barbagia region all was going well. Exhibition was promised by the Associazione Culturale and venues booked both there and back in the UK. Grants from various sources had been arranged and received for the work and just needed the last week's work to complete the project. I stopped at a possible location, opened the boot of the hire car, unwrapped the camera from its protective swathes of focussing cloth and stared in disbelief at the sight of a shattered ground glass. Not just a crack which could have 
been coped with, but a complete shattering. A dozen slivers of glass was what I was left with. OK, slight problem, reach for my spare glass and a small screwdriver and ten minutes work has me back working again. It was then I realised that despite my careful planning and packing, I had left the box with the spare glasses in on my bench in the studio. I had failed to pack them. Disaster. In the wilds of Sardinia, on a weekend there was no chance of a replacement glass. Even in the UK it would probably taken two weeks to get a replacement. 

Barbagia, Sardinia, 2000
So, trip over, exhibition off, might have to refund grants to arts council and British Council etc. etc. etc. These were the thoughts as I drove back down from the mountains to the village where we were staying. Then I had a wild thought. I made my own spare glasses that were back at the studio so I could, given the materials, make one here. In the hotel room was one of those ubiquitous framed prints that adorn the walls of hotel rooms everywhere. I thought that if I ripped that out, salvaged the glass, found a glass cutter I could cut it to size myself. I then needed some grinding paste, the kind used by garages for valve grinding would be fine. All this on a sleepy saturday lunchtime in the wilds of Sardinia. An outside chance, but a chance nevertheless. 

On the drive back, by some miracle we passed a tiny village with an open garage and a mechanic working on a car inside. Apart from forgetting to pack the spares glasses I had prepared in other ways. I had learned the Italian for 'my camera is broken'! 'la mia macchina fotografica è rotto'. I just knew it might come in useful! The bemused mechanic clearly thought I was a madman, dashing about his workshop opening cupboards while clutching a wooden camera and shards of broken glass. Of course I hadn't learned the Italian for 'I need some grinding paste'! My Italian didn't stretch to that. 'Ho bisogno di un po 'di pasta di rettifica'. Yes I know, it's too late now! Anyway he got the idea and produced some very fine rouge that was just too fine. So I apolgised for disturbing him and went on my gloomy way. 

Back at the little hotel / cafe where we were staying and had also  stayed on a previous trip, the locals in the bar were surprised to see me back in the middle of the day. They were used to my routine. Out early, back only when the light went for film changing, drinks in the bar and dinner. Puzzled looks were greeted with my best Italian again, 'la mia macchina fotografica è rotto, La Sardegna è finito!' They all gathered around, took my camera off me, passed broken shards of glass around and argued among themselves. I settled at the bar with a beer resigned to the trip being ruined. After phone calls were made, a firm hand guided me and my broken camera into a car outside. (Not the one with the bullets holes I have described earlier). We drove furiously around the village and up the hill and I was guided into a large shed. 
Barbagia, Sardinia, 2000
As it was bright midday outside my eyes through my tinted glasses were unable to see a thing for a moment. When my vision cleared I was standing in a large workshop with timber, partly made up windows and coffin boards stacked to one side. Grinning at me was, I assumed the joiner / undertaker. I wasn't quite sure what service I was being offered. After earnest conversations between him and the driver which I didn't understand he produced a sheet of clear plexiglass and showed it to me. Ah, I said, really struggling with my Italian now, 'but it has to be ground'.....'ha bisogno di essere terreno'. 'Basta aspettare un attimo signore'. So I waited patiently. He then carefully measured my camera up, cut a piece of the plexiglass to size, checked it, then produced an orbital sander and proceeded to rough up one side. He saw my smile as I realised that this might work and handed me the sander to finish it as I wished. So, from disaster a little while before, here I was, making my own unbreakable ground glass in a strange Sardinian's workshop surrounded by windows and coffins. Our friend from the cafe and the workman were grinning broadly as I worked. When I was satisfied with the level of grinding, I beamed and thanked them profusely. I also realised that there would be a cost to this but it wasn't of great consequence as the cost of not having a replacement would be far greater. 'Molte grazie signore, quanto ti devo'? Much shaking of heads and protestations. 'No no, tu sei il famoso professore dal Galles fotografare il nostro paesaggio. Felice di aiutare'. I didn't argue! Back at the hotel it was ten minutes work to replace the broken camera with my new, unbreakable viewing screen. Not quite as good as ground glass but served me well for the rest of the trip. I always keep it now with the other spares as a reminder of the kindness shown to me out there. I haven't broken one since though.......

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Going public........

It seems like another age now but in 1969 there were very few exhibitions of photography in the UK. I was working as an advertising / fashion photographer but my heart was in what I termed then as my 'personal' work. I pursued this at every available moment evenings and weekends. I always carried either a battered Rollieflex or my newly acquired Leica. An older screw lens type. (I really wanted an M2, but that's another story). For Leica enthusiasts out there for whom such things are important, it was a IIIf red dial with self-timer. (I still have it and it works perfectly). 
Splott, Cardiff, 1969
 I had very little spare time so had to  document the subjects that were all around me. This included the area of Cardiff where I grew up and went to school. A traditional working-class area adjacent to the steelworks which was the main employer was undergoing radical and unsympathetic changes. A once-proud community was being broken up and homes demolished.

I was aware of the new wave of British documentary photography that was emerging at the time and the emphasis on the 

Splott, Cardiff, 1969
representation of society and social problems. I was also aware of the increasing recognition of photography within the world of museums and galleries. One of the first, if not the very first exhibition by a living British photographer organised by an arts council took place in Wales. The Welsh Arts Council showed work by Raymond Moore in its little gallery at their offices in Cardiff. I was there at the opening and probably didn't realise the importance of that show at the time. 
Cartier-Bresson exhibition catalogue, V&A museum, 1969

It seemed to be a turning point, as in the same year the Victoria and Albert museum in London staged a major exhibition of the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson. It was also a turning point for me too, as it was the first time that I had seen the kind of photographic work I was making being celebrated in a major institution in the UK. That it also opened on my birthday seemed to be auspicious! I made a special journey to see the show and returned with the confirmation that I was right to have made photography my life's work and that I needed to concentrate on my own work and projects more. I was impressed that this work was being shown in a respected major institution and it seemed to give work of that kind and photography in general a kind of legitimacy that it had lacked in the UK previously. I also remember thinking how wonderful it was that the museum had acquired some of his prints for their permanent collection alongside all the other artworks. In later years of course this grew into a large, important collection and the V&A now has one of the best in the world. 
'Creative Camera' magazine, September, 1968.
David Hurn was the guest editor.

At the time, not only were there few exhibitions of contemporary photography what magazines existed were either 'trade' publications full of dreary camera adverts and reviews, (some still are), or dreadful amateur stuff also full of nerdy camera technical-speak. One exception was 'Creative Camera' which had morphed from a mainly amateur magazine 'Camera Owner' into 'Creative Camera Owner' and then 'Creative Camera'. A seminal publication for those of us starved of the kind of photography we admired. As a publication it lasted until the late 90's and many of us still miss it. For me, it was a huge part of my photographic world and education.

Years past and I began to achieve some success with various exhibitions and even arts councils and private collectors buying my prints. A letter, (this was pre-internet and e-mail days of course) arrived from the then curator of photographs at the V&A expressing an interest in buying some of my work. I remember my feelings all those years previously when I was on the train home from the Cartier-Bresson exhibition and now I found myself making the same journey home after having some of my work purchased for the very same major public museum. Just like my original experience helped to confirm my chosen path through life, this seemed to me to be another helping hand along that journey. 

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Those who can do, those who can't...........

Pete Davis & John Nesbitt running one of their 'View Camera Workshops'.

There is an old saying - not one that I ever really subscribed to however, that 'those who can do, those who can't teach'. (I prefer the contemporary and more appropriate version, 'those that can do, those that can't do anything work in H.R.'). I have been privileged to teach with some great people over the years, fine, world-leading photographers and other artists, who also had the ability and total unselfishness to pass on their knowledge and enthuse others. However, I'm afraid to say that there are still a few individuals who manage to hold down teaching and lecturing jobs while never having any kind of professional career or credibility.

Students should be enthused by their tutors.  While an academic knowledge of your subject, teaching credentials and  good research abilities are all important, the one thing that will give you credibility in a teaching situation is that the students see that you practice what you preach. In art schools that are part of universities these days there is an obligation to continue your practice at a high, international level as this can bring financial rewards for the university. With budgets being squeezed, this extra revenue can prove very useful and of course, benefits the students in addition providing support for lecturers' practice. Having a current and probably an internationally recognised practice in addition to high academic qualifications (M.A. minimum, Ph.D preferred), has now become the norm.

For most of course, apart from the pressure to produce work within university deadlines and having to fit it all in between a full teaching load, it is seen as part and parcel of a creative person's life. Sadly, there are still a few people involved in teaching who don't practice what they preach and even worse, seem to resent those who do. Unfortunately they are inclined to bluff their way through which just insults the intelligence of students.

I once did a bit of part-time teaching on a photography course at a regional college. The course leader had been a mediocre photographic technician and had obviously been way over-promoted and actually had no professional practice to speak of. He was clearly intimidated by some of the part-timers who were brought in and then tried to show off to students whilst in reality doing nothing himself.

He was talking to a group of students one day about how perfect his negatives were, (he didn't show them of course) and how he never needed to manipulate them in any way. "If I have to burn and dodge" he declared pompously, "I consider that I have failed". One of the more astute students then piped up and said "You must have failed very often then because we have never seen a print you have made and have never seen you in the darkroom". It was true. I worked on that course for about five years and never once saw him in the darkroom or demonstrate anything to students. You will always get caught out if you try to bluff!
Pete Davis & John Nesbitt running one of their 'View Camera Workshops'

It's a strange quirk of institutions that many of these individuals, unable to lead students by inspiration or example, end up being promoted to supervisory or pseudo managerial roles. I was greeted by a Dean of a university art school a few years ago at the private view of an exhibition who, like the individual above was a failed teacher and practitioner who had 'gravitated upstairs'. The conversation went something like this.........

“Good evening Pete, what have you been up to over the summer?” “Oh I have been quite busy. I successfully completed my Ph.D, made the final edit for a book to be published by a well-known international publisher, was awarded a European research grant and began a new body of work”. “Oh!” The Dean looked shocked.  “Are you telling me that you still take photographs?” “Yes of course I do”. The dean looked down his nose at me with a mixture of pity and utter contempt. Then puffed out his chest and declared proudly, “I haven’t made anything for fifteen years you know, I do more important things now”.

Happily, the character above was 'eased out' some time later but the person who never made a print is still in post, twenty five years on, acting in exactly the same way towards his staff and students. Never mind, he must be getting close to retirement soon so there is hope on the horizon............!

Update: The plonker above who never made a print was finally 'eased out' of his post before his due retirement time. He had become so unpopular in the college where he worked  because of his arrogance and incompetence in that he finally 'got the message' and took 'early retirement'. 

Friday, 21 February 2014

Travelling heavy..........!

Travelling with a large format camera, especially at the upper end of the scale, i.e. 10" x 8", can cause logistical problems. I actually find it a bit of a challenge but I enjoy that and managing to work the system. A car presents no problem for within the UK or on my travels to Ireland or on ferry crossings to Europe. Airplane flights are another matter of course. 

When I say a car presents no problems, I was forgetting the days before Ireland joined the E.U. and you had to have a customs 'carnet' listing every item of equipment and a separate page for every time you were going to cross a border that could be stamped at customs and retained by them. You were supposed to present this at the red channel when crossing borders in or out so they may, if they wished, check the list against your equipment. This was to prevent the illegal import of valuable goods into a country without paying the appropriate taxes and / or import duties. 

The Irish 'troubles' were at their height and security on ferries in and out was very strict. Queues through the regular 'green' channels at the customs sheds at the ports were consequently very long and passing through took much time. Of course I was obliged, by having a carnet which needed stamping, to pass through the usually empty red channel. Mostly they were so busy stopping and searching the many cars passing through the other channel that I was quickly waved through, no search, a quick stamp of my carnet and I was through. Effectively jumping very long queues. 

As I was also crossing borders between the Republic and the North when in Ireland, in principle the same rules applied. I came to a remote border crossing one quiet Sunday and dutifully stopped at the customs on the republic side where I disturbed a snoozing customs officer and was waved through. I enquired as to whether I should check in at the UK customs across the road to be told that "they don't open on a Sunday"! So I didn't bother!

After one trip however, I was in my studio one day when I had a surprise visit from UK Customs and Excise just wanting to check that the items on my carnet were still in my possession and not sold or exported illegally to Ireland. The system seemed to work then.
Turning up at airports with huge cases of 10" x 8" equipment can be stressful but I try to plan in advance. I always read the 'small print' and contact the airline in advance to forewarn them that I'm bringing large stuff and what is their procedure. Checking stuff into 'outsize baggage' can take time so I allow for it.  

On the other hand it can be fun watching a scanner and x-ray operator stare at the screen looking at the - to them - 'invisible' wooden 10" x 8" camera in the case and having to ask, "what's in there?" The one time I managed to fit everything into a normal size case that could be handled on the regular baggage check, I watched it come tumbling out end over end at Heathrow and a ground glass was smashed. I always carry spares so no big deal. It was also the only time in all my extensive travels that I have had anything broken. Luck maybe, but also good packing, good cases and good planning. Of course you have to pay extra for heavy stuff, that's fine, we accept that. My gallery, client, dealer or funding body are paying, not me. On a Ryanair flight to Portugal when I was doing some teaching at the Polytechnic in Porto, my flight was £25 or something silly and my camera case three times that. 

Porto, Portugal.

Watching cases containing precious equipment disappear into the bowels of baggage handling is stressful until they reappear, hopefully undamaged, some hours later the other end. I once had to change planes in New York JFK for an internal connecting flight to Vermont. I was sitting on the plane looking out of the window when I spotted my case being hauled off the motor trolley by two burly handlers. They grabbed an end each and then swung it, "one, two, three, heave" on to the moving belt that pulls it up into the hold. It flew through the air with the greatest of ease. Luckily, my good packing did the job and all was undamaged.