The Pleasure of Serving

Almost 10 years ago I was in the village of San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile photographing the spectacular (and varied) landscapes of the Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth. During my visit, I was able to capture the geysers in El Tatio, highest in the world at about 14,000 ft.; the lunar formations and sculpted sand dunes in the aptly-named Valley of the Moon; and shallow lagoons populated by flamingos.

One morning I got up early to capture the landscape at first light. Looking for a high vantage point, I hiked to the top of a steep trail near town. There I found a large, chiseled rock, and on the rock was a metal plaque with a short poem written by Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral. The poem, in Spanish, was titled El Placer de Servir (The Pleasure of Serving).

 Sunset clouds over Chaxa Lagoon, The Flamingos National Reserve, Soncor Sector, Salar de Atacama, Chile

There is a happiness for being healthy and for being just, but there is,
above all, the beautiful, the immense happiness of being of service.


This portion of the poem captures the gist of the whole, and it reminded me of my father, a salesman of school desks, maps, caps and gowns, yearbooks, graduation rings and many other educational things besides. His company was not called Padro School Supplies Company, but rather Padro School Service Company, and his philosophy and desire to offer the best service around was, I believe, a big part of his success (he also loved people, which didn’t hurt).

Be the one who removes the rock from the road, ***
the difficulties of a problem.


As a professional travel photographer, I am in competition with many other excellent photographers, and I am continually in search of ways I can distinguish myself from the competition, to stand out, to be the one who removes the rock from the road.

I believe one of the biggest reasons I have been successful is I always try to go the extra mile. In my business this means responding to emails the same day I receive them, always submitting promised work ahead of schedule (I believe that if you are on time, you are late), and always, always being helpful to anyone who contacts me, regardless of whether I get the job (for example, when I don’t have an image a photo editor requests, I do a little research, find out who might, and pass this information along to the editor). I may not always achieve my standards, but I always try.

The beauty of this approach is threefold. First, and trust me on this, you will stand out by doing simple things that may not seem like much. You do not actually need to go the extra mile; an inch will do. Second, it does not take talent, practice, expertise or education to provide good service, only a little time and desire. And third, you will experience the immense happiness of being of service.

Now get out and shoot something.