With Unrest There is Hope

Pastor Rodrigo Cisternas studying at his church in Santiago, Chile. [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 5600, 1/100, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 68)]

This past June I was working in Santiago, Chile. I was helping lead a workshop of storytellers. I was really focused on those stories and had no idea about the kettle that was ready to explode.

On October 14th of this year the protests in Santiago started.

Chile’s most diehard protesters may be young people, but their grievances possess a long lineage, one decades in the making. Back in 2007 the government made it possible for more to get loans to go to college.

The problem is that for many who graduated they have huge student loan debts and lousy, low-paid jobs. The issue that is very evident today is there is a major inequality gap that education didn’t help solve.

Street market in Santiago, Chile. [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 100, 1/250, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 24)]

I fear that what is happening in Chile can happen here in the USA.

In Chile the privatizing health care and education has led to more choices and greater access, but it also left the poor and middle class saddled with mounting debt. The cost of living in Chile has gotten increasingly expensive while wages have remained low.

The more you read about the unrest, the more you can see their storyline in ours.

Andes Mountains as seen from Santiago, Chile. [NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 320, 1/100, ƒ/5.6, (35mm = 38)]

George Washington chair for the Federal Convention’s had a sun on it. James Madison reported Benjamin Franklin saying, “I have often looked at that behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or setting. But now I… know that it is a rising…sun.”

There is a scripture that says something similarly about unrest.

Deuteronomy 28:67

“In the morning you shall say, ‘Would that it were evening!’ And at evening you shall say, ‘Would that it were morning!’ because of the dread of your heart which you dread, and for the sight of your eyes which you will see.”

Thanksgiving 2013 [COOLPIX P7000, ISO 1600, ƒ/2.8, 1/210]

This week we need to remind ourselves of how blessed we are even in the middle of unrest.

First Thanksgiving

At the first Thanksgiving, colonists were likely outnumbered more than two to one by their Native American guests. Colonist Edward Winslow writes: “many of the Indians coming amongst us, and amongst the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men.”  The preceding winter had been a harsh one for the colonists. Seventy-eight percent of the women who had traveled on the Mayflower had perished that winter, leaving only around 50 colonists to attend the first Thanksgiving. According to eyewitness accounts, among the pilgrims, there were 22 men, just four women and over 25 children and teenagers. 

Philippians 4:6

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

I believe the whole concept of hope is born out of those who seem to have much unrest.

[NIKON Z 6, VR Zoom 24-105mm f/4G IF-ED, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 3600, 1/200, ƒ/11, (35mm = 24)]
Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

The origin of the phrase seems to be John Milton’s 1634 poem “Comus,” which includes the line, “Was I deceived? or did a sable cloud/Turn forth her silver lining on the night?”

“I have always found that actively loving
saves one from a morbid preoccupation
with the shortcomings of society.”

Alan Paton

“Anything that is mentionable can be more manageable.”

This is the children’s ward of Hôpital Baptiste Biblique. As you can see the children are precious. You can see the parents taking care of their children while they are healing from their sickness.

Listen to Dr. Tom Kendall, Jr. talk about their needs.

“Anything that’s human is mentionable, and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable. When we can talk about our feelings, they become less overwhelming, less upsetting, and less scary. The people we trust with that important talk can help us know that we are not alone.”

Fred Rogers

Last night my wife and I saw the movie staring Tom Hanks as Mister Rogers in “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”. That quote stood out to me.

As a storyteller I am often just wanting to mention often the unmentionable so that something can be done.

I was first moved in the hospital by the people and quickly was aware of how old the place looked. Don’t you think that 35 years is a long time before upgrading and refreshing a hospital?

Here is a link if you want to help support the hospital as they upgrade and expand to meet the physical and spiritual needs of Togo.

Hôpital Baptiste Biblique is expanding and updating

Women cooking for their family members who are patients at Hôpital Baptiste Biblique located in Tsiko, Togo, West Africa.
[NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 5000, 1/200, ƒ/4, (35mm = 52)]

I went to West Africa to help tell the story of Hôpital Baptiste Biblique located in Tsiko, Togo. Built in 1985 they are in desperate need of infrastructure upgrades and need to expand. Today I just want to share what they are having to build just for the patients and families.

You see there is no hotel in the area or restaurants. When patients come to the hospital they need a place to stay, cook and take care of their family member that is admitted.

When you go to the Hospital here, you get your mother’s cooking or a relative’s cooking, because the hospital takes care of the medical care and the family takes care of laundry, food and things like bathing the patient.

The first thing that they are doing is adding more space for the patients and their families by creating a hotel with traditional outside kitchens.

This is the original hotel/kitchen space at Hôpital Baptiste Biblique. They didn’t do a good job of planning to take in the way the families cook outside when building in 1985. [NIKON Z 6, Sigma 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, Mode = Manual, ISO 8000, 1/125, ƒ/4, (35mm = 32)]
Workers building the outside kitchen for the new hotel space at Hôpital Baptiste Biblique [NIKON D5, Nikon 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, Mode = Aperture Priority, ISO 2000, 1/8000, ƒ/5, (35mm = 14)]

They are building 4 new hotel wings first in their renewal and expansion project. They first had to do a better job of taking care of the community and put them first.

The 1985 building is just one huge room. No privacy. No outside kitchen area.
They have even built a version that allows for private rooms for those who want to pay for the ability to lock the door. All the rooms also now have electricity.

Now besides adding hotel rooms they have had to build sewage and electrical system. They cannot tie into the existing grids because they don’t exist for sewage and running a hospital where the town’s power goes out almost daily isn’t realistic. They have to have a generator and their own system that kicks in when the local power goes out.

When I was there it went out 2 to 3 times a day and the generator kicks on after 7 seconds.

It won’t be long before the patients move from this older hotel to the new improved version.

Here is a link if you want to help support the hospital as they upgrade and expand to meet the physical and spiritual needs of Togo.

African Time

Photo above: Mother and her little boy carried in kaitenge. They are staying here at the Hôpital Baptiste Biblique in Tsiko, Togo, West Africa.

African Time is when one says they will arrive at a certain time, but arrive much later.

It should be noted that almost every African (on both the leaving and receiving end) does this. So, if one does actually arrive on “American time,” don’t be surprised if a party is still getting set up, a person is still getting ready, etc etc.

Most all my frustrations with Africa were from my not allowing for myself to adjust to the way we do things in Africa or as the old saying goes, “When in Rome do as the Romans do.”

How this impacts Humanitarian Storytelling
Friends enjoying each other during church service at Eglise Baptiste Biblique in Adeta, Togo, West Africa.

In the United States if you plan a project you email, text and call people and plan. You put together a schedule so that when you arrive you can make the most of your time.

On all my trips to Africa [Burkina Faso, Ghana & Togo] the team I worked with had done everything to work with Americans who lived there to plan our itinerary. This last trip reminded me of African Time. Had I been fully aware I would have planned to take two weeks to accomplish what I normally can accomplish in one week in the states.

Now Africa isn’t the only place like this, but for Americans who are punctual and like to have a packed and productive schedule you might find yourself like me, with little hair left.

I saw a group of men by the side of the road in Togo, West Africa, pumping up bike tires, motorcycle tires and vehicle tires.

Most likely the host in Africa that you will work with are more than willing to help you and will start when you arrive.

I planned trips for a few months with a writer when we went to Burkina Faso.

Jay Shafto field strategy coordinator for area is in the missionary housing talking through the plans for the next few days with writer Shawn Hendricks.

This is a photo from that meeting where the writer went over again the plans. This is when they said what was possible the next day. Now looking back I should have noted that this is the common way and not the exception for storytelling coverage by media specialist when they come from another country to Africa.

I arrived in Lome, Togo on Friday night. They don’t drive in the country on the roads at night because it is just too dangerous. You can hit an animal and then getting help wouldn’t be until daylight.

Lucia Guest House in Lome, Togo, West Africa

I stayed at hotel in Lome with the plans that we had worked on to leave the next morning to drive and arrive to meet with a team that afternoon to plan.

Well I found out at the airport the night before that they had to wait and pick up more people later that afternoon. No communication to me or the rest of the team that this was happening.

On the right is Kofi Gaglo the driver and head of guest housing for Hôpital Baptiste Biblique in Tsiko, Togo, West Africa

In Africa this is “normal” behavior, where in the USA we would check with the guests before making plans for them without involving them in the process.

It took us 4 days to locate Faro Faro Agouda, one of our subjects, for the story. I didn’t know until he arrived that he had driven almost 4 hours to make it for our video interview.

The area of Africa that I went to there are over 43 different languages. This impacted everything you do. While you think you are clear and the person you are talking to might understand, by the time your thoughts are translated through who knows how many different languages the message can become quite different to the intended audience.

Child is fascinated by my camera and watched me as I was working at the Hôpital Baptiste Biblique in Tsiko, Togo, West Africa.

In the movie The Wizard of Oz, in which Dorothy, upon arriving to Oz, says, “Toto, I’ve a feeling were not in Kansas anymore.” Is how one often feels when they forget there is a cultural difference to working in another country.


You can still make plans before going to Africa. They will tell you a good time to come and can tell you most of the time if the people you need for the project will be in country. As always in life you still need to be flexible for those things outside your host’s control. Accidents can happen and even family crisis that take people away.

You can still communicate your plans for the project and get as much as possible agreement before you go.

I would suggest to make most of your time to get the people to agree to a schedule before buying your airfare and booking your hotels. You see you can find out this way if they can tell you everyone is OK with the schedule.

Constructing hotel like rooms for patients families at Hôpital Baptiste Biblique, Tsiko, Togo, West Africa
Boots on the Ground

When you arrive you need to have planned your first meeting to basically go over in person everything that you have been planning.

From my personal experience everything you are used to doing in the States will take twice as long or longer to do in Africa. This is the culture and you must learn to work with it and not fight it.

Surgeons doing a bone graft of lower part of leg for a little boy to hopefully help him keep his leg at the Hôpital Baptiste Biblique located in Tsiko, Togo, West Africa.
Bottom Line

With Humanitarian work you are often in a different country and working with a different culture. You must learn to be flexible and able to go with the flow.

You still must get the storyline no matter where you are to tell a story. Continue to be persistent and ask for what you need. Just give them time to respond.

Easy way to track Mileage

Disclaimer: I am not getting any money from TripLog and I am not affiliated with them at all.

So it’s important for you to get the most out of the tax deduction by tracking your mileage. The IRS lets you deduct some of the costs of using a personal vehicle for business purposes. Just like you can deduct the cost of business expenses such as marketing, you can also deduct your business mileage.

58 cents

Beginning January 1, 2019, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be: 58 cents per mile for business miles driven, up from 54.5 cents for 2018. 20 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, up from 18 cents for 2018.

Normal commuting from your home to your regular workplace and back is not deductible. You may deduct business mileage only if you are traveling to and from a temporary work location, from one work location to another, to meet with a client, to a conference, etc.

Yes, you can deduct the mileage. As an independent contractor (received a 1099-MISC) you are considered self employed by the IRS. … You can deduct the miles driven for business. The other option is claiming all your actual expenses such as gas, tires, interest, etc.

I live in the Metro-Atlanta area and on average the round trip to a job is about 40 to 100 miles. That means on average I write off my taxes $23.20 to $58.

Related image

You can just use a notepad and write down all your mileage, your fill-ups, repairs and auto expenses and then at the end of the year spend some time adding up things into those categories that you want to use for deductions on your taxes.

I have found after doing this for more than 35 years that having an APP is so much easier.

I like that this app can be customized. TripLog has three auto start options and also a manual start for each trip.

You can use your phone’s GPS with the app to track your trips.

They even created a device you plug into the car’s USB which will pair with the phone so that you are not using data to track your trips.

Here is the video of how that works:

I use my one account on both of our vehicles. My wife tracks her mileage with her Toyota Camry and I track the Toyota Sienna.

Keeping a mileage log

The IRS tends to be strict in its documentation requirements for business mileage deductions. For this reason, you’ll need to keep a thorough, accurate mileage log each year you attempt to claim a deduction.

Your mileage log must include the starting mileage on your vehicle’s odometer at the beginning of the year and its ending mileage at the conclusion of the year. Each time you use your vehicle for business purposes, you must record the following information:

  • The date of your trip
  • Your starting point
  • Your destination
  • The purpose of your trip
  • Your vehicle’s starting mileage
  • Your vehicle’s ending mileage
  • Tolls or other trip-related costs

You can keep a mileage log in a notebook and update it by hand, or use a spreadsheet to continuously track your mileage. You can also use a mileage-tracking app. The key is to update your records regularly to ensure that they’re precise. Additionally, the IRS requires you to keep your mileage log for three years from the date on which you file the income tax return containing your deduction.

I just recommend using an App to help you capture the data you need for reporting purposes.

Create Estimates Like Menu Boards

Some of the most successful restaurants are those with the simplest of menus.

In-N-Out Burger

The menu itself is a prime example of In-N-Out’s intense focus on simplicity to maximize quality and minimize expenses.  Items on the menu are largely unchanged from the original restaurant stand and exhibit a rare marriage of quality and affordability:

  • 3 Burger Choices: Hamburger, Cheeseburger, Double Double (most expensive at $3.40*)
  • French Fries
  • Beverages: Soda (4 sizes), Shakes (3 flavors), Coffee, Milk

Since its inception, In-N-Out Burger has enjoyed tremendous success, growing annual sales to approximately $400mm per analyst estimates and consistently earning a #1 ranking in the fast food burger chain segment, ahead of competitors such as Wendy’s, Five Guys’ and Fuddruckers. 

While you may have created a very complex spreadsheet to figure out your pricing, don’t show this to a client. Don’t abandon it either. You need this to help you in the future as costs change to figure your pricing.

After you do a job you may want to go back to that spreadsheet and adjust the numbers.

Keep Menu in Mind

Just like in photography you keep things simple for design purposes, this holds true for your estimate and pricing. Restaurant patrons aren’t looking to be overwhelmed when it comes to reading a menu. A clean, simple design will convert better than a list of options or large chunks of expository text. A visually pleasing design effectively uses white space and naturally guides the eye to key menu items.

Your customers are the same. Keep it simple.

Ditch the dollar signs

Pricing shouldn’t be the center of attention. One way to downplay price is to remove any associated dollar signs as they tend to elicit a negative emotional response. You want them to concentrate on the content, not the price. 

Don’t line up the prices

A list of prices that is aligned to the left or right is easily scannable, which could encourage people to choose lower-priced items out of habit. Mixing up the placement of pricing throughout the estimate will minimize decisions based on price comparisons.

Use simple, descriptive language

Try to avoid industry jargon or long sections of text that will confuse people. Yes, more and more people consider themselves experts, but simple, descriptive language in the item’s title will attract more sales. 

Chick-fil-A® Chicken Sandwich
A boneless breast of chicken seasoned to perfection, hand-breaded, pressure cooked in 100% refined peanut oil and served on a toasted, buttered bun with dill pickle chips. Gluten-free bun or multigrain bun also available at an additional cost.
440 Calories
19g Fat
40g Carbs
28g Protein

Quoting for a Non-Profit

A photographer wrote me and asked for advice on quoting to a nonprofit. Here is my advice for them. Now there was a list of specifics, but I wanted to get to the pricing strategy rather than giving them a quote I would do. You see each person has different costs. This is due to where they live, what lifestyle they want to maintain and the cost of their gear are just a few things that influence one’s price.


I believe first you need to have your pricing for “Normal Jobs” and then for those you consider a “Charity Job”. Charity is something that you deem that you want to donate your time. You may want to give everything for free to an organization. That is up to you. I do think once you embrace discounting your price for an organization, you will have to also be sure you have enough “Normal Jobs” or this will not be sustainable.

What I am communicating here is not what you communicate to the client. This is for you to understand while you price something for them.

Once you have figured out your pricing thought process you then create packages. The price and what they are getting and not how you arrived at that price.

Lukas & Nate interview Scott Brock, missionary to Trinidad [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 9000, ƒ/4, 1/250, Focal Length = 35]

Normal Job Price = 100% for time

Charity Job Price = 60 – 70% for time

Hard costs to you I would pass along at 100% to a “Charity Job”. Charity meaning that organization you consider a charity that you want to give your time to. As far as IRS you cannot write off your time to a charity.

My suggestion is to create your “Normal Estimate” and then give a discount. This way you are communicating your normal rates and also letting this organization know you are giving them a HUGE DISCOUNT.

Personally I think a rate of about $600 to $800 a day for your time for a nonprofit is where many I know are charging these days [This is what many of my circle of friends have told me and my personal experience]. Most of those photographers are charging $1600 to $4000 a day for their time for regular jobs.

Most in the industry will charge 50% of their rate for a travel day. That is a day that you do no work at all. If you show up and shoot for an hour after traveling most of the day–That is a shooting day and not a travel day.

Storytellers Abroad Workshop in Bucharest, Romania

Don’t forget to charge for the post production. Many organizations will abuse you with having multiple revisions. Making them pay for this will make them be responsible.

By the way be sure in all your correspondence that you communicate you are charging for revisions. You can have priced in the package 1 or 2 revisions, but let them know when the additional revisions are happening.

Quote your shooting fee, your post production fee and expenses in your estimate. Be sure you spell out what it includes. Just like McDonald’s does for what is included in a sandwich. If a video is expected then describe how long it is and how many revisions that includes.

For your photography I would give some range of number of finished and edited photos.


Always start with a conversation. In person or by phone is the best way to start. Ask them what their expectations are for the project and if they have a budget figure for the project. Sometimes they not only tell you clearly their expectations, but give you a price you are thrilled to work with. This almost never happens, but ALWAYS start with the idea they may know what they want and have a realistic budget for the project.

Your goal is to manage expectations. First by being sure they articulate what they want and then you in the end telling them what you can provide to them. Do your best to under promise and then over deliver.

When you finish this conversation where you agree on what you can do for them, you will put it in writing to them. However, just get some ballpark figures during that conversation to see if it is worth your time to go further. No need to spend all this time to put together a formal agreement in writing if they have no way of paying what you need to agree to going forward.

Worship in Togo, West Africa. [Nikon D5, Sigma 24-105mm, ISO 8000, ƒ/4, 1/100]

Give them 3 versions of an estimate. This is how you show them you are flexible and also help talk them into spending more on something that they will truly enjoy and use.

Don’t line item things you used to come to your price. You don’t see McDonald’s selling their Big Mac with how much time it took to make it and each piece listed. Imagine 2 – Beef patties, 10 minutes cooking, shipping costs to get the products and so on. No you don’t see that. They give information the public wants and a price. Price changes on where in the world you are buying it.

Bottom Price:
This will just give them what they barely need

Middle Price:
Add more deliverable to the package. More Photos, Another video, Blog posts, etc

Luxury Price:
Coffee table book of photos, Videos, More Photos Etc

Dodge Viper

The Sky Is the Limit:
Sometimes you can add a 4th price for the client who could spend a lot if they wanted.

They most likely will go with the middle price every time.

Friction Free

The Stanley Works was founded by Frederick T. Stanley in 1843, originally a bolt and door hardware manufacturing company located in New Britain, Connecticut.

One of the most innovative things they did with their door hinges that helped them to outgrow their competition was to include screws in their packaging.

Clerks were taking time to find screws to fit competitors hinges.

Friction Free Economy

To succeed in the friction-free economy, long-established companies must form entirely new and more fluid relationships with customers, workers, and owners. Those that don’t will either struggle to maintain market share, or fail entirely.

It is the intangible assets that businesses need to understand, measure and exploit in order to succeed. These include intellectual property, brand value, human capital and customer loyalty.

Friction Free Resource

You want to be a Friction Free Resource for your clients. You want to not just solve their problems but do so in a way that the experience is not a bumpy road, but smooth.

Just like Stanley did in the 1850’s by just packaging screws with their hinges making it easier to go to the hardware store and leave in little time, you must think of ways to help your clients make things smooth.

What do you offer your clients that is like Stanley who packaged screws for his clients?