In Your Bag: 1712 – Dan Castelli
Dan returns to share his Covid bag with us.
I’m Dan Castelli, and I’m sharing my EDC Covid-19 bag. I had previously posted the bag I carried to Florence Italy (#1290) in 2015.
It might seem superficial to write about taking photographs during a pandemic. People are dying and a photographer is wondering which lens they should use to get the money shot? I’ll argue that especially during these times, its critical for people to record how the cope with C-19. You can avoid being the boorish, stupid person with a camera. You can work in a respectful, compassionate way. Being creative is good therapy. So is baking, but this is a write-up about photography.
The emotions from the the reality of the pandemic and the draconian nature of the lockdown ranged from disbelief to resigned acceptance of the new circumstances we were living under. No one was untouched across the entire globe. Photography in its various forms helped us make sense of the times and allowed us to share common experiences with others.
My style of photography came to a sudden halt. I’ve always been drawn to the humanistic style of photography. I’m not a “street photographer” pushing my Leica into the startled faces of strangers. I like the gentle approach of Kertesz or the dry humor of Elliott Erwitt. I look for things people can relate to.
Now, about camera bags. I classify bags into two general categories: a DAY BAG and a FIELD BAG. My Italian bag (1290) was a field bag – assembled for an extended stay away from home. I updated & reconfigured a field bag for a vacation to the UK in 2020 with my wife. Well, that trip never happened. We entered lockdown 14 days before we were going to depart.
In the first few weeks of lockdown, I wandered about the house with a Nikon FE2 and a Nikkor macro lens shooting shadows & the tips of paint brushes. Our routine was adapted to the lockdown rules. The trips outside the home were limited to essential needs. However, I could carry a camera and snap the occasional photo. For the most part, I avoided photographing people. There were high levels of stress and tempers were short. I wasn’t looking to add to people’s stress.
For inspiration, I looked to the 1930’s Farm Security Administration (FSA) archives. I turned my camera toward the physical signs of the pandemic: empty shelves and warning signs. People in lines. Reminders to stay safe. I did occasionally make photos of people wearing masks, but since I don’t own a telephoto lens of my Leica, getting close enough (with a 40mm lens) for a portrait was out of the question.
So, I took a minimalist approach to the bag. I eliminated anything and everything that wasn’t needed for a day shoot.
The Bag & Contents.
- A Domke F-5B shoulder/waist bag. I modified this bag by ripping out the hook & loop fasteners (too much noise) and the spring snap closure snap. I replaced the snap with a military grade twist-n-lock closure. I can open & close the bag without making any noise and I can do it one-handed (even behind my back!) Hint: wash your camera bag when you first get it. It’ll soften up the fabric and be easier to carry.
- Leitz-Minolta CL w/a 40mm m-Rokkor lens. The camera is in working order. Attached to the camera is a Voigtlander VC II exposure meter. The meter in the CL works, but I’m not a big fan of spot meters. I can meter a scene without bringing the camera up to my eye. I just set the shutter speed & f/stop, bring the camera up to my eye and make the photo in one smooth movement. The CL is protected with a Zhou half-case. A Domke quick release swivel strap keeps the camera strap from twisting when film is changed. Anyone who uses a film CL with know you need at least 3 hands to change film.
- The beginning of the pandemic coincided with me switching over to bulk load film my film. I would load the camera with 12 exposure rolls of HP-5. The 12 exposures were enough for a single outing. I’d batch process the film in ID-11 or DD-X in my basement darkroom.
- Ever since I was stranded underground on the Red Line in Boston back in the 1970’s I’ve carried a small flashlight. I’ve also carried a small penknife. Good for opening food packets or trimming a loose thread.
- A 3-layer face mask w/extra filters, blue surgical gloves and a bottle of hand sanitizer.
- I also pack a moleskin notebook personalized by our artist daughter. A small gel pen and business cards are also tucked in one of the outside pockets.
- Everyone should carry a bandana. This one acts as extra padding in the base of the bag and is handy to wipe my hands.
You may see my work at:
My sincere wishes that you all stay healthy, look after your loved ones, get the vax and continue to make photos.
Keep them coming folks, we need more submissions, so get your bag on Japancamerahunter.com
Send me a high resolution image of the bag. Optimum size is 1500px across. Please ensure there is a bag in the shot, unless you don’t use one. The more you can write about yourself the better, make it appealing and tell us a story. Snapshots of your gear with a camera phone and no words will not be featured.
Oh and don’t forget your contact details (twitter, flickr, tumbler et al). Send the bag shots here. Not all make the cut, so make sure yours is funny/interesting/quirky. And please make sure the shot is of good quality, you are a photographer after all.
Oh such a chance and an honor to be the first one to open the Bag of Dan. I have heard many times about his famous CL. This is really a very powerful kit, probably one of the best in term of:
Somehow, could be better than a M considering it has the 40mm which is the winner lens because it replaces a 35mm and a 50mm. A man of great choice and great B&W pictures, I have visited your gallery.
Thank you Dan, you are always, ever a great man who really is a great defender of film photography. Respect you a lot.
Dan, thank you also for your great text.
yesss people must get the wax.
C19 has stopped me, simply because it is difficult to take pictures when more than 4.000.000 people died and many places are in lockdown. Like you, I do not want to add stress to others. The world pays a high price for the … … of one country!!!
Hi, I’ll admit it’s damn hard to make photos during C19. You almost feel like a dilatant engaging in photos while so many suffer. I think people who keep journals, poets and visual artist may have different experience during the pandemic. Their output doesn’t necessarily rely upon using a mechanical device in real time to create an image.
I have the BBC app on my phone. Over the past 18 months, they featured photographers and how they coped with the pandemic. I was impressed by the work from Italy where the people were in severe lockdown, and the people who used their limited time outside to record their essential outings around their neighborhoods. I saw photos made in London of empty streets and they had a quiet beauty to them. Here in the northeast US, our rules were inconvenient, but not draconian. It was easier to get out & about. It didn’t lessen the danger or fear of the unknown, but it made a situation easier to endure.
We have enough evidence of governmental failures when it comes to protecting their citizens. In the US, it quickly became a political issue, and we still are suffering the consequences. We need to take care of the people we can care for, help the our community where we live, and continue to follow the advice from out health officials. Get the jab. That’s all we can do.
At times you may feel like Nero fiddling when Rome was burning. Taking photos doesn’t make you a callous person, and you shouldn’t feel guilt by the act of photography.
I’ve been impressed by postings of photographers from all over the world coping with restrictions. From Italy where photographers documented their lives during restrictive lockdown measures to the UK where people used their cameras on daily, time limited walks to record their neighborhoods and people hanging out on front steps. Hoxton Mini Press just published a fine book of London in lockdown (it’s on my birthday list!)
I think people who create journals, or write poetry or artists may have a less restrictive feeling due to the nature of how they create. Photographers must work in the present, with a mechanical device in ‘real time.’
We can take care of our loved ones and ourselves. We can lend a hand for the good of our community. We can get vaxed, wear masks. We can mourn the dead and curse governments’ around the world for missteps and bad political decisions and doubting science and medicine. And we must never forget and try to avoid the mistakes in the future.
I’m almost out of my mental reserves to cope. I won’t spend it on hating countries or stupid people.
I’m at a loss for words (rare for me!) for you incredible, kind comments. You must know that what you said has touched me deeply.
All I’ve ever wanted to do was to wander about with my camera and take snaps of what caught my eye. I wanted to combine that practice with self-imposed high standards of processing film and darkroom techniques. I’m pleased to find I have people who also enjoy my work.
The (film) CL is a great camera to work with. Even though I have a M2 & M4-P, the CL was a perfect fit to navigate these uncertain times.
The 40mm lens is a ‘sleeper’ in the world of M mount lenses. This particular lens was sources by Bellemy for me a few years ago.
I’ve always fought for film. It should be another choice in photography besides digital. It has survived and thrived thanks to photographers all over the world who refuse to let it die. When people engage me about film and why I use it, I like to point out that when electric guitars made their debut, musicians didn’t burn their acoustic guitars, they made room for both. Artistic print making uses everything from wood blocks to etched copper plates. They all have a unique signature.
In closing, I want to wish Bellamy & his hard working crew congratulations on achieving the ten-year milestone! A wonderful article in B&W Photography about JCH. May you all continue to prosper and enjoy life!