Sam Cook is a man that cut his teeth in several major Wyoming industries but always seems to end up in the woods. Born in Wilson, Wyoming, Cook grew up interacting with public spaces. The enthusiasm in his voice peaked when recalling evenings spent bugling to bull elk with his dad. The father-son duo would frequently tempt the brutes within snorting distance. During the winter, Cook would ride the mountains enjoying the endless Wyoming powder.
After graduating from Jackson Hole High School, Cook packed his bags, attending the University of Montana. Cook knew one thing when he finished college—he did not want to end up stuck in his hometown. With this fear, he happily accepted an offer to work in the oilfields of Pinedale, Wyoming. He was certain to make it clear that this is where he received his true education, stating “I will always look back at that time as the best work experience education I could have had at the time.” However, after four years of working in the oilfield, Cook desired a change of pace and put in his notice. His timing was impeccable, as a bust cycle that continues to this day hit Pinedale leaving many without work.
Exiting the oilfields, Cook realized the potential use-case of drones after casually playing around with the innovative technology during his time on the rigs. “If you have a high-resolution camera that can essentially fly around, you can take a person out of the equation and not put their lives at risk inspecting something” claimed Cook. It was an epiphany moment that took his understanding of drones from hobby to serious profession.
Inevitably, the booming real-estate market sought out Cook to use his talents to showcase properties in Wyoming. Yet, the agents needed more than just drone footage to make an enticing pitch to clients. “They wanted somebody who could do it all, like still photos, drone photos, and video,” going on to say he needed to “Understand and learn the package of using the camera.” Years of religious practice with drones and cameras enabled Cook to build a professional and solid foundation that has earned him a respectable reputation.
However, real estate shoots, surveying, and safety inspections aren’t the end of the road for Cook, as he aspires to spend more time focusing on Wyoming. While both the landscape and critters of Wyoming have always played a significant role in shaping Cook’s life, it wasn’t until he became a drone operator that he wanted to catch images of them. Yet, many of his drones images and videos focus on the landscape so as to not harass animals. With an ever-growing appreciation for wildlife, Cook intends to move in the direction of a broad-spectrum Wyoming photographer, “I think it would be really cool, being from Wyoming, born and raised, to take photography, videography, drones, and do more things exclusive to Wyoming” said Cook. Much of his time-off work is already spent documenting nature and the Wyoming lifestyle, though bridging the financial portion is the next step.
In recent years, Cook has traded out the camera for a rifle and bow during the fall. It comes as no surprise that he has attempted wielding both camera and weapon during hunts, but found this to make an already challenging activity that much harder. It’s a balancing act that Cook extends to his thoughts on conservation.
“We have an amazing resource in wildlife, including national parks and public spaces,” while acknowledging “It is also something that can be subsistence as far as hunting.” Packing the freezer with local game to fuel his hectic and artistic passions behind the camera has become an annual event.
Wyoming is his home, and sometimes work forces him to travel to places that have gone a different direction than good ol’ Wyo. In almost a plea, Cook spoke to a shifting world, “Still seeing our history, strong and present with historical plaques all over the roads, and then going to a place like Los Angeles, you realize there is not much left,” ending with “talk about a place that was not conserved, just exploited to the fullest potential.”
A Wyomingite at heart, Cook intends to live out the rest of his days exploring every inch of the state. Running on endless curiosity, an eye for beauty, and a passion for capturing images, Cook plans to spend as much time as he can chasing the “perfect” shot.
About the Author:
Christopher Bancroft is a freelance writer and photographer native to Wyoming. After graduating from the University of Wyoming, Bancroft sought to cover hunting, fishing, and travel stories. He now lives in Pinedale where he writes for publications like Meateater and The Bugle Magazine while also serving as a WWF ambassador.