Littlewind and Mesiah Sweetgrass mobilized a relief effort to deliver goods to vulnerable members of the Wind River Indian Reservation. (Mike Vanata)

The COVID-19 pandemic triggered a new health mandate to maintain 6 feet of distance. 

This rule had implications on everything from socializing to eating at restaurants and going to work. For WyoFile, it brought new challenges to reporting, interviewing subjects and, especially, photographing Wyoming’s stories. 

Not only were photographers urged to stay farther from subjects, but many of Wyoming’s more dynamic and photogenic events — sports games, concerts, rodeos — were cancelled. 

Our photographers got creative, however, donning masks and using long lenses in some cases. And they delivered. WyoFile’s 2020 photos capture a state in upheaval and a year defined by adaptation and hardships.

The images also chronicle stories of fire and resilience, portray well-loved Wyoming residents and showcase the one-of-a-kind people, landscapes and wildlife found here.

Emergency workers walk in protective suits at St. John’s Health in Jackson as they rehearse a response to a potential COVID-19 report. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./WyoFile)

Preparing for a pandemic.

Jessica Schonegg applies eye drops to a bald eagle that flew through a glass window in Jackson Hole. Rescuers took the injured bird to the Teton Raptor Center where it is expected to recover. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./WyoFile)

This rescued raptor recovered and was later released back into the wild.

At High Country Linen in Jackson, a worker loads laundry onto a conveyor belt that will shuttle it to sorters, washing machines and dryers. Many workers are paid hourly and face being laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./WyoFile)

Hourly workers were among those hit earliest, and hardest, by the pandemic’s economic downturn.

Kemmerer area residents listen to public comment during the Jan. 28 Wyoming Public Service Commission meeting. Some in the crowd wore safety clothing suggesting employment at the mine, power plant or railroad. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

Residents of southwest Wyoming contemplate a future that depends less on coal-fired power plants.

Julian Valdez is custodial supervisor at the State Capitol in Cheyenne. (Mike Vanata/WyoFile)

During Wyoming’s legislative session, the bills, budget and lawmaker battles tend to hog the limelight. But when photographer Mike Vanata visited the Capitol in February, he noticed the behind-the-scenes workers who make the operation run so smoothly.

An imprint of eagle wings and talons in the snow documents a raptor that had been feeding on a deer carcass outside of Kaycee. (Justin Dodd/Wyoming Game and Fish)

Snow art, courtesy of a raptor.

Sissy Goodwin in his Douglas home. (Mike Vanata)

Douglas native Larry “Sissy” Goodwin, who gained national renown for his stubborn individuality and penchant for dresses, died in March. He was widely celebrated.

Moses Hasenauer, a Cheyenne resident and Tea Party activist, confronts Gov. Mark Gordon at an April 20, 2020 protest. (Mike Vanata/WyoFile)

Some residents decried government shutdowns and health orders as unconstitutional.

A Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper wears a mask at an April 20, 2020 protest against public health orders. (Mike Vanata/WyoFile)

Masks became a particular point of contention in 2020.

Flanked by Wyoming Highway Patrol officers wearing cloth masks to protect against the spread of COVID-19, Gov. Mark Gordon descends the State Capitol steps on April 20, 2020 to speak with a group of protesters opposing his public health orders. (Mike Vanata/WyoFile)

Gov. Mark Gordon often found himself at the center of the debate over health orders.

An empty BNSF Railway coal train leaves Guernsey and heads north on May 12. Coal shipments coming down from the Powder River Basin are a key part of this rural town’s economy and a source of good paying, union jobs. BNSF announced it would pull 87 jobs out of Guernsey as coal’s decline threatens the regional economy. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

The impacts of the coal industry decline rippled across the state.

Vehicles began arriving at the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park well ahead of its scheduled noon opening on May 18, 2020. (Mike Vanata/WyoFile)

Visitation to Wyoming’s public lands spiked in 2020.

At the Pahaska Tepee Resort between Yellowstone and Cody, a bear statue takes COVID-19 precautions. (Mike Vanata/WyoFile)

Smarter than your average bear.

A herder pushes cattle through a squall along the Green River Drift route on June 17, 2020. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./WyoFile)

Winter in June on the Green River Drift.

Protestors march down the middle of Grand Avenue between 2nd and 1st streets in downtown Laramie on June 4. The large crowd stuck to the sidewalks until the last block of their march. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

Protests erupted in Wyoming cities big and small in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

A woman wears a mask as she chants at a protest in support of Black Lives Matter on the Jackson Town Square on June 8, 2020. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./WyoFile)

After an 8-minute, 46-second silent vigil remembering George Floyd, protesters in Jackson became vocal.

Andrew Parker, who described himself as a friend of Robbie Ramirez, a Laramie resident slain by Albany County Sheriff’s Deputy Derek Colling, holds a skateboard with a “Fire Colling” sign taped to it during a June 4, 2020 protest. Ramirez was a skater. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

In Laramie, Black Lives Matter protests reinvigorated a movement calling for the firing of an Albany County deputy who killed an unarmed resident in 2018.

Marches in Laramie have drawn fluctuating opposition. In this June 6, 2020, photograph, a pickup truck with men carrying assault rifles passes through the march. One of the counter protesters told WyoFile the group is armed to show its support for constitutional rights and peaceful protest. March organizers say they believe the armed people were there to intimidate and antagonize the protesters. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

Counter protesters also hit Wyoming streets.

Tyson Trabing and Paige Hysong stand beside a blue Dodge truck with American flags. Trabing and Hysong spent some June evenings driving up and down Grand Avenue during the marches, and Trabing used his truck to “roll coal,” or blow exhaust, at the protesters. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

… to roll coal at Black Lives Matter supporters.

The comet NEOWISE streaks through the night sky above Heart Mountain north of Cody in the wee hours of July 12. (Greg Wise/Powell Tribune/Wyoming News Exchange)

Streak in the sky.

Zach Turnbull probes a dead cow on July 18, 2020, for evidence of carnivore bites. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./WyoFile)

Wildlife detective work.

Louis shakes off after a dip in Lake Hattie in July. (Rose Curtis)

Diving dog.

Susan Mick explains procedures to a Teton County voter at the Teton County Library polling station during the primary election Aug. 18, 2020. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./WyoFile)

Wyoming’s primary and general elections drew enormous turnout through in-person and mail-in voting.

Riley Shogren, 25, works to clear flammable materials, plant growth and grass away from the house he grew up in outside Centennial. Shogren and his father, a UW professor, have been working since Sunday to prepare the house, tucked into the trees under Centennial Ridge, for the possible arrival of the Mullen Fire. They are building defensible space. (Mike Vanata/WyoFile)

The Mullen Fire ultimately spared the Shogrens’ house but not others’.

A Wyoming Highway Patrol car blocks people from traveling Highway 230 into Woods Landing as the Mullen Fire spreads through a 127,000-acre-plus swath of the Medicine Bow National Forest. A local resident in a pickup stops by for a chat in this Sept. 30, 2020 photograph. (Mike Vanata/WyoFile)

Officials believe the Mullen Fire is the largest wildfire from a single start in state history.

Senior Kye Catlin wears a face covering as he studies in University of Wyoming’s Coe Library. (Jeff Victor/WyoFile)

Students across Wyoming adapted to education in the COVID-19 era.

The spume of Old Faithful’s world-famous eruption is backlit by the moon in Yellowstone National Park. (Greg Wise)

A moonlit marvel in Yellowstone National Park.

Will Smith, an emergency room doctor in Jackson, gets jabbed with a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 16, 2020. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./WyoFile)

As the year drew to a close, the first vaccines were administered in the state, offering a ray of hope.

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