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Mic’d Up: An inside look at the life of a pro hockey photographer

A backstory on SB Nation’s new photographer Kate Frese

Me shooting a Flyers game through a hole
Amy Irvin

Well now you have a bit of an idea of what it’s like for me while shooting a pro hockey game. But wait, who am I? Who is Kate Frese? Does she even go here?

So I sort of slipped in to Broad Street Hockey under the radar. I started working with SB Nation in January and if you’re a regular reader of the site, you may have noticed my name in photo credit lines or seen one of my featured galleries. So I guess this will act as my formal introduction. How you doin’? I am not new to photographing hockey, though. This is my fifth season photographing the Flyers.

It was all a dream. I used to read The Hockey News magazine. I’ve been a Flyers fan since a young age. I was most definitely a creative child as well. Little did I know that close to 20 years later these things would combine.

Flash forward many years to my junior year in my undergrad at Pennsylvania College of Art & Design sitting in my junior review critique in front of the photo department chair and two other professors. As my critique was coming to an end, the photo chair asked me what I want to do with my degree when I graduate. I had no idea, so my professors started throwing out suggestions. The one threw me for a complete loop and changed my life forever. He pointed out how much I love sports. He suggested I give sports photography a try. Why didn’t I think of this before?! The photo chair didn’t seem too thrilled, as she pictured me in more of an academic role. But I know when it comes down to it, she is thrilled I’m having such a great time and am actually working in the photography field.

Before I got into sports photography, the photography I was creating outside of my school assignments was band photography. There was something exciting about capturing live action. I became well-known for my work within the hardcore punk community. I am an internationally published music photographer. Through my photography work, I had met someone who ran a media company that covered concerts in Philly as well as sports. I had made a Facebook post about thinking about trying sports photography. He then reached out to me and offered me an internship saying he’d be excited to see what I would do with sports photography considering he loved my band photography so much. My story is different than most. I started out shooting pro sports. I didn’t have to work my way up like most did.

This was taken during my second season covering the Flyers.

Since that internship, I have been with Flyerdelphia. Wanting to expand my brand, I reached out to Travis Hughes about working with SB Nation at the end of last year. Well, here I am. Y’all are stuck with me. It’s been an absolute pleasure and amazing experience working with SB Nation, especially the Broad Street Hockey people. I can’t believe they were dumb, I mean kind, enough to give me my own section of the site and everything. All of my photo galleries can be found under Flyers Frese Frame.

When people find out what I do, I normally get bombarded with a ton of questions. Below is a fake interview with myself.

Random person: What is a typical game day like for you?

Me: I normally get to games two hours before puck drop. I get to the arena and enter through a special entrance that takes you below the arena. There is a media room that I set up my laptop and check my gear. I sit down and make a folder on my desktop for the game. I then go around and say hi to some of my media and NHL official friends. After that, I grab a cup of coffee and go sit in the empty stands for about ten minutes. I don’t look at my phone or anything. I guess you could say I am gathering my thoughts and meditating on what I’m about to do. Getting myself in the zone. After that I have a photographer’s meeting in the press box and get my shooting assignments for the game. Each game is different. I’m almost always ice level for at least one period, which is where I feel I get the best shots. I make a list of star players to make sure to get photos of. After that, it’s go go go. I shoot a period, run down to my laptop and edit and upload and then repeat for the next two periods. Sometimes after the game I go into the locker room to take photos. Once that is all said and done, I go home and work for 1-2 hours on the featured galleries that you see on this site.

Random person: Do you actually like hockey? How do you stay sane being a fan?

Me: I’m a HUGE hockey fan. My apartment is covered in Flyers stuff. I’ve watched most games for the past 20+ years. When I was first asked to shoot a Flyers game during my internship, it was one of the best days ever. I was excited and then I quickly realized... I’m crazy. How am I going to remain professional?! I put my big girl pants on and did it. Sometimes I’ll let out a cheer or call the ref out under my breath, though. When I’m shooting, I’m so hyper focused and it’s a completely different experience than attending a game as a fan. To let the fan in me out, I attend preseason games as a fan and also do one away game a year. In addition to that, I go to AHL, ECHL, and NCAA hockey games just to hang out, drink a cold one, and watch some hockey.

Always super focused (lol photo pun)
Amy Irvin

Random person: What’s it like being a female in a male-dominated field?

Me: This has not been easy at all. I’ve dealt with harassment from fans and peers. People have called me a puck bunny. People have accused me of sleeping my way into a press pass. People have mistaken me for an ice girl. People have told me I should shake pom-poms instead of hold a camera. I have never let any of this crap stop me. If anything, it has driven me to create better work. I don’t want to be identified as a female sports photographer. I am just a sports photographer. I don’t need any special treatment or attention for being a female in this profession. Ok, time for one last question.

Random person: What are some of your favorite moments as a hockey photographer?

Me: Getting to photograph the Legion of Doom at this year’s alumni game was a bunch of hard work paying off. The biggest day of most women’s life is the day they get married. Mine was getting to photograph my favorite player, Eric Lindros, and getting to watch the Legion of Doom play together again. Quite honestly, this whole experience has been amazing. I am truly blessed. I know many people go about their life not knowing what their purpose in life is. Mine is to photograph professional hockey.

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