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.”