Humans of Harker: On the sidelines and in the game

Heidi Zhang explores perspectives as a photographer and a lacrosse player


Devanshi Mehta

“Sometimes I pick up my phone and I get sound bytes of footsteps or the wind blowing through leaves, things that happen around you [that] you don’t see without a camera. I like taking photos or making videos and putting my vision into these things because I really want to share them with others and make people feel something when [they] see it,” Heidi Zhang (12) said.

You’re not likely to see Heidi Zhang (12) at a game. It’s not that she isn’t there — you’re just more likely to feel her passing by, nothing but a quick “excuse me” and a flash of the gold-toned highlights in her dark brown hair as she wriggles her way to the front of the crowd, her hand cupped protectively over the sleek Nikon camera strapped around her neck.

You’re more likely to hear the swift clicks of her camera as she deftly hones in on the trained hand of the quarterback gripping the white seams of the football, or the water dripping off of a water polo player’s arm, or interlocked arms of two basketball players struggling for the ball.

And if you do see her, she’ll be a tiny speck, scurrying along the sidelines and trying to match her pace with the action unfolding in front of her. But when the last whistle blows, the look of fierce concentration gives way to a grin that spreads across her face. As a photographer, she has briefly become a part of the action and is descending back into reality, still fueled by the adrenaline rush pounding in her ears.

Although Heidi only first started shooting in her freshman year when she joined yearbook, she quickly immersed herself in it and began experimenting more with still photos and even video. Photography provided her a wholly different way of experiencing the world, and she actively embraced this feeling, whether that be through heading out with a camera to shoot Humans of Harker portraits as the editor-in-chief of TALON or snagging video clips during a casual trip to San Francisco.

“Sometimes I pick up my phone and I get sound bytes of footsteps or the wind blowing through leaves, things that happen around you [that] you don’t see without a camera,” Heidi said. “I like taking photos or making videos and putting my vision into these things, because I really want to share them with others and make people feel something when [they] see it.”

Her personal appreciation and love for photography and video transcend anything that she could express into words. Beyond allowing her to communicate stories to the world, on a deeper level, she values how these works also hold the capability to elicit an emotional reaction.

“Sometimes when I’m watching a film that has really cool shots, or it’s from a really cool angle, or there’s music or somehow they color grade — sometimes the combination of those things and whatever’s happening, it just makes you feel ‘wow, dang,’” Heidi said.

More than anything, she hopes to make an impact among the people around her with the work she does. By being on the sidelines to take photos at sports games or at spirit rallies, Heidi may not be able to watch and enjoy the event with the crowd, but instead, through the yearbook, she helps create a way for her peers to remember these special memories from high school even years later.

“I think people don’t really realize this, but the yearbook is possibly one of the things that they’re going to keep from their high school experience and onward,” Heidi said. “Even when I’m a grandparent, I’m probably still going to have my yearbooks and show them to my grandkids and talk about what I did in high school. So I just really enjoy being on staff because I know that whatever I’m putting into the book is something that everyone is going to be able to read and reflect on.”

However, when spring rolls around, you will no longer find Heidi on the sidelines, but at the center of the field, having set aside her camera in exchange for a lacrosse stick. Currently serving as a co-captain of the girls lacrosse team, assistant coach and chemistry teacher Andrew Irvine describes the energy she brings as “enthusiastic” and “positive.” Although Heidi is now one of the team’s top scorers, she joined this sport in her freshman year with the intention of merely satisfying PE credits. Yet, unlike her previous experiences playing soccer and T-ball, Heidi immediately found that “something clicked” with lacrosse and she worked hard to improve quickly.

“[When] I started lacrosse, I don’t know, maybe it’s because something clicked with that specific sport, but I want it. I want to win,” Heidi said. “I woke up before school super early just so I could run and condition. It was like the movies, in the montage where [the main character] sucks at first and they slowly get better and better.”

Heidi’s unwavering dedication to the purposes she cares for is a quality that permeates through much of her work, from spending early mornings practicing lacrosse to working for weeks straight designing the TALON yearbook.

“She works for what she believes in and what she finds engaging,” Director of Journalism Ellen Austin said. “She’s unafraid. I saw her on the lacrosse field and thought ‘Wow, that characteristic in a different place.’ I see her in the journalism room and see her on the [lacrosse] field just flying down 50 yards, just unafraid whether someone’s in her way or not. She has a lot of verve and fearlessness.”

Due to her leadership positions in both the journalism program and the lacrosse team, Heidi has learned how to juggle both demanding roles and now acts as a role model to her peers, whether it be teaching them to “smile through it all,” as described by Mitchell Granados (12), or acting as a big sister to younger classmates.

“She’s gone through the same steps and the same experiences, and I got to watch her in her college experience,” close friend Zoe Kister (10) said. “Watching her going through that and just being so close to someone who you get to watch firsthand really helped me and showed [me] how I want to continue the rest of my high school experience.”

Now a senior reflecting on the past four years, Heidi stands by the simple maxim “no regrets.” Having been a part of so many different activities and been challenged to balance different aspects of her life, she firmly believes that every decision she chose along her journey in high school was meant to happen.

“No matter what activities you do, no matter what things you’re participating in, you’re going to have to make sacrifices and you’re maybe going to have to pick one thing over the other,” Heidi said. “I guess, do what your heart wants. I don’t really want to dwell on, ‘oh this could have happened,’ or ‘I should have done that,’ because first of all, you can’t change it, but also, you’re really happy right now.”