veritas exquirere


veritas exquirere


veritas exquirere


From Behind the Camera

The @ophs.flicks team on photography, their social media presence and documenting student life through a lens

Spring semester, 2022. 

Rallies are still outdoors, and students pack into the bleachers of the football stadium, already sweating under the April sun. Running the rally as part of ASB, then-junior Derica Chiu picks her way through the crowd, camera in hand. Lately, Chiu has been playing around with her father’s digital camera, and what was once a pastime has become a passion.

“I’d say I’m very creative as a person, I like to do anything that has to do with art in general,” Chiu later wrote to the Talon. “And when it comes down to it, photography is the art of capturing the moment.”

She takes pictures of the rally games in action, of prom proposals, the rock band and grade-by-grade shenanigans. She snaps a shot of Principal Matt McClenahan striking a pose, surrounded by the class of 2023’s green T-shirts. It’s the first of over 700 photos and videos to be posted to the @ophs.flicks account.

“When I started posting, the account gained a lot of attention from people reposting photos from the account,” Chiu wrote, reflecting on the beginning of her popular Instagram account. “At the time, some of my best friends were on different sports teams which led me to go watch their games and take content while cheering them on.”

This coincided with an assignment in English teacher Jennifer Hankins’ class where students pursued a new passion and recorded their journey along the way.

“My project was on sports videography, so I experimented more on sports media and kind of fell in love with it,” Chiu wrote. 

As @ophs.flicks gained traction in the spring of 2022, Chiu returned to campus her senior year with the desire to cover as many athletic events as possible, beginning with the football season. She spent that fall on the field, gathering content to post to the account.

“People loved the photos that I took and I was happy that they did, and many asked for more,” Chiu wrote. “Also as an athlete, I know I love when I have photos or hype videos of myself playing the sport that I love.”

Also on the football sidelines in 2022 was yearbook photographer and club president Ephram Hay, then a junior. A mutual friend introduced Hay to Chiu, and the two bonded over how photography allowed them to be uniquely involved in the school community. Hay would later bring on then-junior Emma Lee, and the team spent the remainder of the year growing the account through their content.

Upon graduating, Chiu went on to play golf for Emory University. For the 2023-2024 school year, Hay and Lee found themselves stretched thin producing content for as many events as possible, which is where sophomore Jackson Thayer came in.

“I realized photography was something I was pretty good at so I started my own photography account and started editing and posting photos there,” Thayer said. “Eventually I reached out to Ephram and we talked for a bit about me possibly joining the team. After the final CIF game for girls basketball, I made my first post to @ophs.flicks.”

What Chiu created with only a camera, photo editing software and a desire to promote school spirit is now a mainstay of OPHS’ social media presence. Over three years, zero followers have become close to one thousand. 

With over 700 posts, the account is able to catch small moments that students might otherwise lose when the whirlwind of highs becomes blurred with student life’s lows. Looking back on photos, a rally is no longer overshadowed by a fifth-period test, a great season isn’t diminished by a premature end.

“People love getting back pictures of themselves and to see all their excitement in their photos,” Lee said. “They’re reliving the memory.”

Capturing a fight during a boys soccer game gained close to 40,000 views, and engagement has been high ever since. Despite account visibility, the photographers’ focus isn’t on social media. They’re not in it for the likes and views.

“If there’s any engagement that I find the most rewarding it’s people reposting my photos to their stories, just getting it further out there because they think it’s good enough,” Thayer said.

But what makes a photo “good enough?” Photography is a technical art. It relies on principles of design—balance, space, emphasis, contrast—along with camera knowledge—different lenses, ISO, aperture, shutter speed. The ability of @ophs.flicks photographers to shoot with these in mind, in the middle of a basketball game or as the homecoming queen accepts her crown, sets their content apart from any other student-run account.

Lee appreciates clarity, framing. For Thayer, it’s frozen movement. A baseball player, mid-throw or mid-slide—just an iPhone can’t do it justice, preserving that moment in time. And it doesn’t have to be an action-packed shot. The subject doesn’t have to be flashy. One of Hay’s favorite photos is of the girls flag football team breaking from a huddle, the focus on senior wide receiver Avery Prior, surrounded by her teammates.

“It was just her standing but it was during golden hour,” Hay said. “All the light was just bouncing off her hair in every direction. I’d say it was close to perfect.”

What Chiu, Hay, Lee and Thayer can all agree on is that the photography is best when emotions are high. Though @ophs.flicks started with rallies and has covered homecoming and prom, the photographers lean into emotion where, as fellow athletes, they know it best: the field, the track or the court.

In the past two years, OPHS’ winter sports have made deep runs into the post-season. There to document the victories, the rush of beating rivals and the adrenaline of close matches was @ophs.flicks, rain or shine, no matter how late a school night crept. Hay recalled how it poured during the boys’ Kanan Cup. Under the glow of stadium lights, he told the team to hold up their trophy and snapped a shot.

Boys and girls basketball not only claimed Coastal Canyon League titles but also had their own CIF runs, with the girls winning their second straight championship. The coach specifically asked Thayer and Hay to stand courtside. 

“I liked feeling I was a part of all the teams I took photos and videos for,” Hay said. “I felt like they’d always include me in things and it just felt like I was kind of going with the team as they got all these big wins.”

Unlike Hay and Lee’s junior years with @ophs.flicks, there was something bittersweet to every sporting event, a quality that paralleled the experiences of the students they were photographing.

“It’s their final game, but it’s also kinda like ours too because we won’t be here next year to do this,” Hay said. “It does pack a punch.” 

Lee and Hay hope to continue photography where they can in college. Lee hopes to get a new camera that she can take with her to UC Santa Barbara. Hay has reached out to the athletic director at UC Santa Cruz about covering their sports teams, but would like to shoot beyond the school level, at a professional beach volleyball game or for an MLS club team. Now at the end of her first year of college, Chiu still scrolls back to her photos and videos, the media that started it all. 

“I love the fact that the account has been taken over by Ephram, Emma and now Jackson,” Chiu wrote. “It’s not common for high schools to have a media team solely for athletics, or even one student-led. But I think it’s worth it because it shows off the memories that were made during our time in high school.” 

Chiu, Hay, Lee and Thayer share a similar story. They are all athletes, with roots in ASB publicity, yearbook or personal passion, who saw a need to document student life, to boost school spirit and pride.

“I’d love to look back at the account, and I do it right now,” Hay said. “I just go through everything we’ve done the past year, two years and it just feels good.”

From behind the camera, Hay and Lee are witnessing their last everything in high school, just as Chiu captured hers, as Thayer will in a couple of years. 

Through the lens: Hay and Lee’s last high school football games—the shots of every student section the final time seniors will cheer each other on. Their last homecoming. Their last Kanan Cups and playoff wins on the road. Their final rally, their only Senior Sunset and only prom.

And soon, graduation, the last of it all. But even as some of the original photographers of @ophs.flicks move on, they leave with the intention of the account continuing. Thayer, and those who join next year, are first up to carry on its legacy.

“I can see this thriving when I’m way past graduating,” Hay said. “Like an adult with a job”—at this, Hay smiled, gestured to Thayer—“and this kid will probably be in college too. We can see that whoever has it at the time, it’s in good hands.”

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About the Contributor
Mara Hankins
Mara Hankins, Editor-in-Chief
A junior, Mara Hankins currently serves as the editor-in-chief for the 2022-2023 school year. She is also the director and founder of Medea Creek Middle School's Journalism Program, a student mentorship opportunity that has given younger students their own publication, the Panther Post. She was the news editor for the 2022-2023 school year and a senior staff writer for the 2021-2022 year.
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