In your bag No: 1628 – John Messina

When John isn’t developing and printing in his “Hell Bath” he’s cycling around with these essentials in the hunt for capturing beauty.

Long time reader, first bag-poster. I am a graduate student in soil ecology in the Pacific Northwest doing research on mycorrhizal communities in grasslands. In addition to school, my cats, and Magic the Gathering, photography has become a huge obsession over the past couple of years. Before the obsession took hold, I had an old Canon Rebel G that I took with me all over the place shooting color negative film picked up from the closest drugstore (Superia 400? 200?). At the time I really didn’t know anything about photography except that I enjoyed taking pictures and the quaintness of film. A couple of summers ago, however, a friend gifted me a Fujica ST801 and I never looked back.

I make a little money on the side by buying old film cameras, spiffing them up, and then reselling for a modest profit. Ultimately it is not for the money, but for the joy and experience that comes with playing with all these fun and unique cameras. Because of this hobby I have a real good sense of what I look for in my gear and have curated a pretty decent collection (but not too G.A.S.-y). The recent surge in interest in analog photography, which can be gauged by the plethora of YouTube channels and blogs on the subject, also lends itself well to my little hobby. I try to maintain a collection that represents the diversity of cameras and emulsions to be found out there with rangefinders, SLRS, point and shoots, and toy cameras.

I love these “In your bag” articles but have always found it peculiar that many people have multiple cameras of similar type which seem a little redundant, i.e. multiple SLRs. Now I totally understand the joy in having a small collection of film cameras, but I typically only bring one camera out for a day and shoot with that. Here I have a setup optimized for biking around. The camera is an early Canon Model iii rangefinder with a Canon Serener 50mm f1.9. Someday when I have more $$ I would love to pick up a nice 35mm LTM lens for this bad boy. This particular body has had the rangefinder mechanism cleaned out and is very easy to focus with even though the viewfinder is still very “squinty.” I love the shutter on here with two dials and a decent top speed of 1/1000th.

This camera is completely mechanical and is just so fun to shoot with. I am not one of those people that proclaim that pure mechanical analog is superior, but I would advocate for people to try it out! Because there is no light meter in this camera, I pack an awesome Gossen meter that does reflective and incident light readings and is super tiny. I know the sunny 16 rule, but here in the PNW it is rarely sunny and I find the meter really helpful. I also have a lens hood that accepts either a color correction filter or a red filter I keep in my fanny pack. This filter protects the lens and helps to prevent flair, which old lenses are prone to. I shoot all manner of different emulsions and really don’t have any allegiances. For color I usually stick to C41 process film as processing slide film is expensive (also very beautiful!). Kodak Portra 400 and Ektar 100 are staple film stocks as well as Ilford HP5/ Delta, Kodak Tmax 400, Fuji Neopan Acros, Ultrafine Extreme, and weird infrared films.

Lastly, I scan film using an Epson V850 scanner on campus, but I also print black and white images in my home darkroom named Hell-Bath. I develop my black and white negatives in Caffenol CL, a recipe made from instant coffee, vitamin C, washing soda, and potassium bromide. Brewing my own caffenol brings a fun and experimental aspect to my photography. My roommate and I have even experimented with printing with caffenol as well.

Thanks for reading this post and look forward to some other setups in future contributions. In the meantime, if you want to check out some of my photography here is my Flickr:[email protected]/


John M

Thanks for sending us your bag shot John. Love the cycling specific setup, not too dissimilar to mine!
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. Please understand that there is a long wait now as there is a backlog of submissions. Not all make the cut, so make sure yours is funny/interesting/quirky. And please make sure the shot is of good quality, as the ones that are not do not go up.