Urban photography needs snap judgement / by Tom Oliver Payne

Taking good urban and architectural photos requires snap judgment to capture spontaneous city moments.

I usually find I get the best shots when I’m least expecting it – the light may looks particularly nice when I’m out to meet friends, or the roads may be emptier than normal on my way to work. But because carrying a big DSLR camera around can be pretty damn awkward, I’ve been waiting for the day that a camera phone is just as good in quality.

After hearing that EE was bringing out the Huawei P9 co-engineered with one of my favourite camera companies, Leica, I was super keen to try it out. Thanks to EE, it wasn’t long before I had one in my hands on one and was heading out for a day on my bike in London.

Riding towards Canary Wharf, I checked out some Brutalist architecture in London’s east end. From Balfron Tower to the Isle of Dogs, I meandered my way through dozens of estates, capturing the shapes of the concrete buildings around me.

Lying awkwardly in the grass, trying to get a photo of famous 1970s, Robin Hood Gardens, I was approached by an elderly man who told me that the buildings would soon to be demolished. I suddenly appreciated the ability to capture these buildings at this moment in time, right before the neighbourhood was to vanish… And who knows, the photos might even be worth money some day.

As I crossed into Canary Wharf, I was amazed by the sudden contrast from the 1970s concrete buildings I had just left to glass and steel now towering above me. I was now looking at some of Europe’s tallest skyscrapers - all mirroring the beautiful blue sky and fluffy clouds above. While I would never want to live or work in this financial district, I knew that when the sun was out – like it was today - it was an awesome place to photograph.

As I pointed the Huawei P9 towards the towering office blocks above, I appreciated the camera’s wide lens, which helped me to fit the enormous buildings in frame. This is something I’ve always used on my DSLR, but have never had the benefit of on a camera phone. And just like my camera, the P9 also comes with manual features like shutter speed and ISO, which enabled me to make the most of the heavy shadows over me when converting to black and white.

I soon found myself riding through London’s city centre, photographing the strange triangular shape of the Leadenhall Building, the dome-like roof of The Gherkin and the rugged rawness of the Barbican Estate. After a week of rain, I couldn't have asked for better weather to shoot in.

Towards Tower Bridge, I was confronted by a bottleneck of traffic, and soon realised that the bridge had risen to let a boat pass through. After years of living in this city, I’d never seen this old bridge open its gates.


Just as a cyclist rode ahead of me, the road over the bridge ahead lifted itself vertically. I quickly took out my phone and grabbed a shot of the man on his bike in front of the vertical road. As I looked at the photo I’d just taken, I realized how few people would have had the opportunity to capture such a moment. Standing in the middle of one of the world’s most famous bridges, I snapped a view that few others had seen. A spontaneous moment forever recorded - I was quickly falling in love with having a high quality camera phone.

As much as I love my DSLR, taking the P9 out for the day showed me that the concept of the camera phone has now been reinvented and can almost compete with even the best digital cameras. Unlike DSLRs however, it fits straight in my pocket, ready to capture any moment, at anytime. The marriage of EE’s super fast network and dual lens camera makes the Huawei P9 the perfect smart phone when I’m on the road and want to capture spontaneous moments.

All photos taken on the Huawei P9. In collaboration with EE, the 4G Network that’s 50% faster than O2, Vodafone and Three.