Feature: Photo Gallery

From Above

Photographer Sam Cook uses drones to capture aerial images of the local landscape.

// by Bradly J. Boner

Sam Cook’s discovery of his passion for photography wasn’t a traditional path. In fact, it wasn’t really a path at all: Cook’s journey took him to the sky. “I had my first drone before I had my first handheld camera,” he says. “It’s such a mind-bending, foreign view that you don’t get from the ground.”

After earning a Bachelors of Science degree in business management from the University of Montana, the Jackson native and current Alpine resident worked in the oil-and-gas industry before transitioning into surveying and materials testing. These experiences inspired Cook to think about how drones could be used to surmount certain challenges while keeping humans out of hazardous conditions. Simultaneously, Cook was experimenting with a kite capable of lifting a GoPro and makeshift gimbal—the origin of his career in aerial photography.

In 2017 Cook acquired his commercial drone license and, shortly after, founded Contour Aerials, a company that provides aerial imagery for clients ranging from construction firms to whitewater rafting outfitters. He credits the analytical left half of his brain for setting himself up to begin exercising the more artistic right half. “I think the biggest thing was knowing there was going to be a lot of technical info around drones,” Cook says. “There’s a very analytical side to drones, but then there’s a very creative side.”

The topography of the region allows him to exercise his creative side and also keeps his drone skills sharp. “We’re blessed with the terrain around here. Just being able to navigate through canyons and over streams, it’s kind of a training ground that helps you be successful anywhere,” he says. “Our surrounding landscapes are beautiful because they are right in your face, but I think my creativity stems from trying to look past that and see what else is there.”

The Pavillion at the Center for the Arts in Jackson
Sunset over the Snake River at Alpine, Wyoming
Winter night in Jackson
U.S. Highway 26 on the east side of Palisades Reservoir
First snow in Jackson
U.S. Highway 89/191 through the Snake River Canyon
Ice on Palisades Reservoir
Two separate photos of the Greys River near Alpine, Wyoming, were combined to make this image. The shafts of light were created using a technique called “light painting”—the drone moves through the frame during a long exposure. 
Ice on Palisades Reservoir
The Narrows of the Grand Canyon of the Snake River

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