In Your Bag: 1718 – Daniel Castelli

My Pandemic Bag

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. It’s possible to work in a respectful, compassionate way. Being creative is good therapy. So is baking, but this is a write-up about photography.

The emotions emerging due to the reality of the pandemic and the draconian nature of the lockdown ranged from disbelief and resigned acceptance to outright refusal to comply with public health directives. 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 my thoughts 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 anxiety.

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 excellent condition. Attached to the camera is a Voigtlander VC II exposure meter. The meter in the CL is accurate. I’m not a big fan of spot meters, so I rarely use the built-in meter. I can meter a scene with the camera sitting in my lap. I 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 will know you need at least 3 hands to change film.
  • The start of the pandemic coincided with me switching over to bulk load 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 in my basement darkroom. 
  • Ever since I was stranded underground on the Red Line in Boston (aka “The T”) back in the 1970’s I’ve carried a small flashlight in every bag I carry. I’ve also carried a small penknife since I was a little human. The knife comes in handy when trying to open those plastic-sealed packages or trimming a loose thread.
  • A 3-layer face mask w/extra filters, blue surgical gloves and a bottle of hand sanitizer.
  • A moleskin notebook personalized by our artist daughter. A small roller ball 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. In a pinch you can fashion a head covering and look like a pirate with the bandana.

You may see my work at:

Instagram: djcastelli68

My sincere wishes that you all stay healthy, look after your loved ones, get the vax and continue to make photos.

Postscript I didn’t want to write.

(July 30, 2021) When I first wrote this piece in April of 2021, the virus was beginning to slow down. The United States was ramping up the distribution of vaccines to the various states. Mass vaccination sites were established, and people were getting the shots in increasing numbers. Both my wife & I were fully inoculated by early April of 2021. By early May, our entire family had received both doses. We hoped we had begun to turn the corner on this deadly virus.

I had broken down the bag and replaced the personal protective masks & gloves with extra film, batteries, etc. The new surge has forced me to return to carrying the masks & gloves.

We now are seeing a lethal reversal on the progress we’ve made against Covid-19. Many parts of the US have reached pre-vax infection numbers. These high numbers are among the people who refused to be vaccinated. Some conservative (aka: red state) governors are actually banning the wearing of masks in public or schools. Other states are reintroducing mask mandates even in areas that have very high vaccination rates. We have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory. We are in effect, two Americas. It’s sad and it was preventable.

Keep them coming folks, we need more submissions, so get your bag on

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.