Stephen Dowling and His Pentax ESII at a Gig

Many photographers have a large collection of cameras and lenses, but they will have their favorite camera that they like to bring everywhere. Join us on a journey of how music journalist, Stephen Dowling, photographed a gig with his Pentax ESII.

Five years ago, I bumped into a legend. I was shooting the Manic Street Preachers – one of the bands responsible for my career as a music journalist – for a personal project documenting bands during sound check. Having been given a photo pass for the show to shoot the first three songs, I decided to hang around. That’s when I met Pennie Smith.

You might not know her name, but if you’re in any way a fan of rock music, you’ll know her most famous shot. Snapped from the side of the stage when The Clash were playing at the Hammersmith Ballroom in New York in September 1979, it showed frustrated bassist Paul Simonon about to smash his guitar to bits. The image – personally chosen by frontman Joe Strummer off the contact sheets – went on to be the cover of the band’s seminal 1980 ‘London Calling’ and one of the most famous pictures in rock history.

Smith stood next to me in the pit, snapping away on a battered looking old Pentax which had clearly seen better days. Talking to her in between snapping the action onstage, it turned out the Pentax – an old ESII from the mid-1970s – was the same one she had used to shoot that famous Clash gig.

Good enough for Pennie Smith, good enough for me. Within a few months I had tracked down a pair of working models, and added them to my small arsenal of screw-mount cameras.

The ESII was the last of Pentax’s cameras to take the M42 lens mount, and it was superseded by cameras taking bayonet-mount lenses (much quicker to change). But the ESII has a certain retro charm (coming from the decade when manual SLRs reached their peak), and it’s tough and simple to use.

My friend Billy is a passionate Clash fan too – and has a band of his own, a hard rocking, Socialist soul outfit called Thee Faction, who pepper their songs with revolutionary left-wing ideology. It’s a fair guess that David Cameron and Mitt Romney are not fans.

In June, Thee Faction held a gig in London’s Half Moon in Putney – a venue which has played host to the likes of The Rolling Stones, The Who, Elvis Costello and U2 since the 1960s. It was partly to mark Billy’s birthday. As a birthday present, I said I’d shoot him on the same kind of camera and film (Kodak Tri-X) that Pennie Smith had shot The Clash on.

Not that I’m saying I’m as good a music photographer as Pennie Smith, but Tri-X and Takumar lenses Pentax made since the 1960s are a match made in heaven.

Shooting bands on film is not for the faint-hearted, especially for those who’ve only ever done it on digital cameras that allow any mistakes in settings to be quickly fixed. There are really only two rules to bear in mind – meter for the highlights (there’s a lot of dark space in the background) and make sure your shutter speed is fast enough to freeze the action.

Venues like the Half Moon are where great rock photographers of yesteryear cut their teeth, taking shots an arm’s length away from the performers, jostled by the crowd and without auto-focus and a review screen to help.

Thee Faction’s short-but-sharp gig was an energetic affair, allowing me plenty of practice to get Billy’s gesticulating and audience-baiting in sharp(ish) focus. Tri-X, a film which many rock and jazz photographers made their living from, gives deep black and bright highlights. One of my music-making friends described it as “chalk and charcoal”.

With the film rated at 3200 (pushed three stops) there was more than enough light to freeze Billy in the spotlight’s’ glare, eyes blazing and hands pointing out the crowd. Tri-X is a very pushable film – photographers used to rate at it at 12,800 and get beautiful results.

Being able to shoot the entire set rather than the first “first three songs, no flash” most music photographers find themselves saddled with, I was able to rattle off two films during the band’s set. A couple of them, I think, show just what a cool combination the ESII and Tri-X can be – the pic of Billy pointing his finger in a punk rock pose, and his rock ‘n’ roll preacher stance. I hope Pennie would be proud.

Check out Stephen's review of the LC-Wide. If you want to see more photos, check out his LomoHome or visit Stephen Dowling's Flickr page.

written by stephen73 on 2012-09-06 in #lifestyle

More Interesting Articles

  • LomoAmigo: Stephen Dowling Tests the LC-A 120

    written by hannah_brown on 2015-01-14 in #people #lomoamigos
    LomoAmigo: Stephen Dowling Tests the LC-A 120

    Previously a music journalist, Stephen Dowling now writes for the BBC. If that isn't interesting enough, London-based writer is also passionate about film photography. He has blog called zorkiphoto where he writes about all his favourite cameras and film types. The folks over at Lomography UK lent him an LC-A 120 and, as you'll see in a bit, he managed to get some wonderful shots.

    2
  • Pentax Auto 110: the undisputed master of 110 photography!

    written by sandravo on 2014-03-19 in #reviews
    Pentax Auto 110: the undisputed master of 110 photography!

    Being an addict of large and spacious 6x6 negatives on 120 film, I never would have thought I'd own a 110 camera someday. But when I came across the Pentax Auto 110 on an auction site, it was just too darn cute not to buy it. So I placed a bid, won the auction, and am now the proud owner of the tiniest SLR ever made!

    2
  • Daniel Zvereff: Artistic Explorer

    written by Jill Tan Radovan on 2015-02-09 in #people #lifestyle
    Daniel Zvereff: Artistic Explorer

    A freelance designer and illustrator by profession, New York-based Daniel Zvereff is an ardent traveler who documents his journeys the old-fashioned way – with hand-written journals and photographs. In this feature, Zvereff talks about his passion for travel, and how it has sparked a love affair with cameras and lenses.

    2
  • Shop News

    Wear lomo-love on your skin

    Wear lomo-love on your skin

    You’ve shouted your analogue love from the rooftops and worn your heart on your sleeve – Now it’s time to take it to the next level and wear it on your skin! Our new Lomography Tattoos are fun, easy to apply and come in five designs.

  • Carson Sanders Talks 'Instant Cubans' and His Passion for Analogue Photography

    written by chooolss on 2014-11-05 in #lifestyle
    Carson Sanders Talks 'Instant Cubans' and His Passion for Analogue Photography

    Traveling is almost synonymous to taking photographs, and for many photographers, it's always a question of which gear to bring to document their trips with. For Carson Sanders, he brought his Fuji Instax Wide, among other cameras, on his first ever trip to Cuba just last May.

  • Camera Collections: herbert-4's Time-Honored Treasures

    written by jillytanrad on 2014-03-02 in #lifestyle
    Camera Collections: herbert-4's Time-Honored Treasures

    Herbert joined the community only in 2009, but he has been an analogue photography enthusiast perhaps longer than anyone else in the community. His collection is a treasure trove of cameras, lenses, and accessories. Read on to find out about one of the most respected members and camera collectors in the Lomography community, herbert-4, or simply Herbert.

    23
  • Yelle Goes Crazy with The LC-A+

    written by antoniocastello on 2015-02-19 in #people #lomoamigos
    Yelle Goes Crazy with The LC-A+

    Julie Budet, better known as Yelle, is a french musician, who in 2000 joined forces with GrandMarnier (Jean-François Perrier) and Tepr (Tanguy Destable). Since then, for the last 14 years, they have been working together, creating music and touring around the world. Last year they released their 3rd album - Complètement Fou (completly crazy) - and took the LC-A+ with them on their US tour.

    2
  • Shop News

    A Very Special Portrait Lens

    A Very Special Portrait Lens

    Photos shot with a New Petzval lens are immediately recognizable for their super-sharp focus areas and wonderful swirly bokeh effect. Each New Petzval lens is crafted from brass (just like the original Petzval lens) and features premium glass optics. Together with Lomography, the lenses have been designed and constructed by a team of optics specialists at the Zenit factory in Russia. Zenit are master lens manufacturers and have the skill to build the Petzval lens for use with today’s SLR cameras.

  • How To Bring Your Images To Life

    written by andie_sollmer on 2014-07-08 in #gear #tipster

    Learn how to make a minimovie out of your favorite picture! It works best with Multi-lensed cameras like the Oktomat or Pop9, where you have many images on one single print.

    2
  • Lucus Landers Talks About Building Handmade Cameras

    written by cheeo on 2014-07-31 in #lifestyle
    Lucus Landers Talks About Building Handmade Cameras

    Cameras are tools for documentation, creating art and expressing one’s self through photographs. But for some photographers, they are extensions of their own bodies. This is exactly how photographer Lucus Landers sees his handmade cameras.

    1
  • Lomography Community Cup: The Final Stage

    written by icequeenubia on 2014-07-10 in #competitions
    Lomography Community Cup: The Final Stage

    Football is a big deal these days and fans all around the world are rooting for their favorite teams. To join in on the fun, we are having a football-driven last leg of the Lomography Community Cup. Will your team make it straight to the championship match? Let's all cheer for them in this last leg of our exhilarating challenge!

    106
  • Shop News

    Take the Harpy on a ride!

    Take the Harpy on a ride!

    Take your camera on a safe ride with your bike. This sturdy ZKIN leather bag protects your Diana F+ sized cameras and Lens. Remove the loops and you have a stylish shoulder bag!

  • Art Hunter Sardinas x Brittany Schall

    written by mindofmyra on 2014-09-09 in #people #lomoamigos
    Art Hunter Sardinas x Brittany Schall

    We asked some of New York’s hottest designers to lend their talent in designing some of our La Sardina DIY cameras, and we are very excited to share with you, Brittany Schall. Brittany likes to ponder on the social, psychological, and cultural aspects of the effect of appearance on one's identity through her realistic drawings of hair. Join us on a journey through self and ponder on how you identify with your hair.

  • The NYC Sardina Art Hunter Exhibit Grand Opening

    written by jillytanrad on 2014-08-07 in #events
    The NYC Sardina Art Hunter Exhibit Grand Opening

    We asked some of New York’s hottest designers to lend their talent in designing some of our La Sardina DIY cameras, and we are very excited to share their masterpieces with you. Join us and see their reimagined La Sardinas along with the photos that they shot using the fun, easy-to-use cameras.

  • Creative Ways to Shoot with Your Lomo LC-Wide Camera

    written by Robn Kester on 2015-02-17 in #gear #tipster
    Creative Ways to Shoot with Your Lomo LC-Wide Camera

    What’s not to love about the Lomo LC-Wide? If you are a fan of wide angle lenses or Lomography, you probably have one in your collection. The LC-Wide is a powerful camera with many fun features to get creative when shooting. Best of all, all these are already built into the camera.

    16