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Eastburn of ESP1000 continues commitment to Minnesota Junior Hockey League - Junior Hockey News
Published: Wednesday, 15 Feb 2012
By: Amanda Marie Liesinger
Russ Eastburn, the official MnJHL photographer, has been working for the league for over 6 years. Along with assistance from his wife Marie and son Tyler he has been running his business ESP1000 (formally Eastburn Sports Photography) for 16 years. Starting with Quarter Midget Racing, baseball and swimming, hockey only played a small role in the beginning of Russ' professional photography career but photography has always been part of his life. "I sold my first photo when I was 12. I had an old plastic 35 mm camera. My corner gas station bought and used my photo in an advertisement. As you can imagine I was thrilled he gave me $20 for those negatives!" In the mid 70's and 80's he was doing photos for a rock bands and model portfolio's. He also shot weddings senior pictures and individual portraits.
He says that his sons' participation in sports is one reason why he began focusing more on hockey. Not only does he shoot photos, he has also worn many hats throughout all levels of local hockey. "I have volunteered in every capacity from Mites through High School from being a coach to scheduling ice times and officials. I have been the liaison between Minnesota Hockey and the Tier I AAA teams. I have sat on 3 youth hockey boards as well as high school Boosters. I have also acted in the capacity as an assistant and consultant for one of the MnJHL teams. We have housed many players from winter and summer leagues. I am also the official team photographer and webmaster for the Edina Lakers and team photographer and media consultant for the Minnesota Owls." Russ provides all photos to the articles posted on the MnJHL website as well as photos to all teams for use on their individual websites.
When he started with the MnJHL Russ also shot photos for local tournaments and high school games. He covered Showcase Hockey and provided housing and shot photos for the 2002 Men's Paralympics Sled Hockey Team. He has taken photos for the Herb Brooke's Training Center in Blaine MN. In the last few years Russ says he's shifted all his focus to the MnJHL. He provides photos to USA Jr. Hockey Magazine, USA Hockey web magazine, and local newspapers. Last season he was the official photographer of the USA Hockey Tier III Junior A National Tournament in Rochester, MN and provided images to many national media outlets. He has made two trips to the Junior National Tournaments in Boston, MA. He rode with the Owls in 2008, Rochester Ice Hawks in 2009 and covered other Minnesota teams. While at Nationals he was asked by other teams to supply images to their local media as well. He provided images to the MN Junior Hockey and Rochester, MN Post Bulletin along with other local newspapers.
In 2008, ESP1000 was the first to provide live coverage of online games for the Minnesota Owls and by 2009 five teams were using this service. "We finished off the 2010-11 season providing webcasts for the Northern Lights," he explains. Over the three year period ESP1000 had over 3 million viewer minutes. "We provided a free to view format and I'm proud to say we had viewers from around the world as well as overseas service men and women. It was from these broadcasts that I believe ESP1000 became a household word among Junior Hockey families and fans."
Russ' dedication to shooting games does come with challenges. "Most sports are fairly easy," he says, "but hockey is the most challenging as lighting and other conditions are poor." He is seen at MnJHL rinks balancing on a ladder to get clearer shots over the glass. It can be dangerous work as well. Russ said he lost a tooth this year when he was hit by a stick shooting over the glass. His dedication continued even after a car accident to a hockey game almost cost him his left arm. After 22 operations, Russ is recovering from his last one in November 2011. He still struggles with his injury but has continued shooting into the 2012 season. "Because of my love of the game and devotion to the league I have never allowed anything to hold me back."
His favorite thing about shooting hockey is getting to know the athletes, owners, coaches, and families. He's made lifelong friends in the process. Furthermore he enjoys creating memories for the players and their families. Russ encourages other amateur sports photographers to take the time to know and research their sport and if possible, find a mentor. "You have to love doing this kind of photography. You can't jump in thinking it's going to be easy, it's not." He also says he struggles with unauthorized use of his photos in a digital world and the financial loss caused by it but continues to shoot hockey because of his passion. "The rewards from my work reach beyond any amount of money you can make."
Russ is even behind the camera when he's out of the rink, enjoying photographing family and nature as a hobby. When he does have free time he enjoys fishing with his wife and two sons on Coon Lake in East Bethel MN where they've lived for over 10 years.
Support ESP1000 and the MnJHL by purchasing the rights to his photos through his website. This allows Russ Eastburn to continue to provide great action shots to the MnJHL. So far this season he's shot 40,000 images.
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