I passionately love my old Domke camera bag, which I inherited more than four years ago from Jon. It’s the strongest, trustiest bag I’ve ever owned. But it’s been hovering on the verge of death for a long time now.

Old bag

I loved my Domke to death.

I’d been looking for a new bag forever. In fact I even bought one last year, on sale at a camera expo. As soon as I got it home I realized I’d made a mistake. It was too stiff and despite its uncomfortable bulkiness it didn’t have space for all my stuff. That bag is still sitting on a table in the corner of my kitchen, unused.

I continued to use the old Domke despite the broken zipper, frayed straps, and potentially lethal bent metal catches. Deep down, I was afraid to let the Domke go. It meant too much.

I was still carrying the nearly dead Domke three weeks ago, as I walked down a cobble-stoned street in Paraty, Brazil. Then I spotted Casinha da Lona and I knew my life was about to change.

Sueli Paraty

Sueli stands in the doorway of Casinha da Lona on Rua da Lapa in Paraty.

I hurried past Casinha da Lona on our first morning in Paraty, on my way to the town’s pier. My family and I were late for a boat ride and couldn’t stop in. But as soon as I saw this shop, I felt certain that my new camera bag was inside.

We went back later and met Carlos and Sueli, the charming proprietors of Casinha da Lona. Sueli spent 20 years living the U.S. and speaks perfect English. Carlos makes all the bags using recycled canvas from long-haul trucks. He makes bags of every shape and size, with conveniently placed zippers and clasps and pockets and secret compartments.

I’ve never seen so many beautiful bags. It was bag heaven.

Carlos and Sueli

Carlos and Sueli in bag heaven. There’s even a boxing bag hanging from the ceiling — I soooo wanted to buy that. Look carefully at the floor…See my old Domke?

Carlos Paraty

Carlos sews a Brazilian flag onto a bag that my sister is about to buy.

I told Sueli I was looking for a camera bag. She rummaged for about 30 seconds and produced what I’d been seeking: a beautiful, durable, handmade camera bag with adjustable velcro compartments and space for all my stuff. Not too flashy. Not too boring. Not the Domke, but something else just as wonderful.

For a few minutes I tried to convince myself that the new bag wasn’t for me. It doesn’t have a secret pocket at the back like my Domke has. Maybe it’s too big. Maybe I shouldn’t spend the money (although it’s very well priced).

Then I stopped kidding myself and told Sueli I’d take it. I also bought a handbag and a wallet for Lucky. I should have bought that canvas skirt on the mannequin outside, too, but oh well.

I’m so happy with my new Brazilian bag. The nearly dead Domke is peacefully retired.

6D Camera bag

I still hear angels sing every time I look at it.

The new camera bag came along just in time because today I bought a new camera. Similar to the way I’d been clinging to my old Domke, I had also been clinging to my old Canon 60D. This week a friend of mine offered me an amazing deal on an almost-new Canon 6D. Once again, I was afraid at first. More letting go of old things and taking on new things. But what better time than now?

6D Smokey

One of the first shots I took with my new camera, of the Melville Cat.

For those of you salivating over my new bag, I’m sorry to say that they are not available outside Brazil. But if you ever find yourself in Paraty you must seek out Casinha da Lona. Carlos also sells his bags at a market in Rio every Sunday.  Email them at contato@casinhadalonaparaty.com.

The year is off to a good start and I have more big plans to tell you about soon.

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