A developing hobby

Published 4:18 pm Friday, February 20, 2009

People with stressful occupations often find release from job-related pressures by developing hobbies and interests totally unrelated to their professions.

Dr. Gary Kipp, a local obstetrician and gynecologist, has done just that.

He said he had been accustomed to throwing himself into work year after year without taking vacations. Then, as he puts it, he came to the realization there aren’t any luggage racks on hearses. At that point, he decided to make time for two long-time interests—travel and photography—both of which he had put on the back burner in pursuit of his work.

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Some 30 years ago Kipp said he traveled a bit and worked with film photography, but found waiting for photos to be developed was unsatisfactory.

The use of digital cameras and a computer have changed all that.

As an avid computer user, he initially began doing digital art on the computer. He enjoyed dabbling with images found on such sites as Photoshop. When he tired of stock photos he decided to learn more about using digital cameras. He now plays with a Canon 40D and a full-frame Nikon D 700. He claims to be self-taught and gained most of his knowledge from the Internet.

He also belongs to three photography forums where he submits photos for critiquing, and learns about lighting and composition techniques from that source.

The Internet has also been a source for finding photography travel groups, and over the last couple of years he has taken some interesting one-week tours.

Having a preference for off-beat places, he tends to shun the usual tourist locations. He made his first photographic tour to the Arctic Circle because, “I wanted to see what it was like and to see the culture of the people there,” explained Kipp.

He arrived in Barrow, Alaska, on Aug. 12 when the weather was 30 degrees with a 10-knot wind off the Arctic Ocean. Kipp describes the geography as being mostly tundra, with no trees, since it is positioned above the tree line. Barrow is a peninsula where two seas come together to form the Arctic Ocean.

It is inhabited by the Inuit people. There are few employment opportunities, long winters with little sunlight, and a high rate of alcoholism. All food and supplies must be either shipped or flown in and ships can only get in during the months of June, July and August.

Barrow boasts one hotel, sparsely furnished, in which Kipp spent five days photographing the Inuits and the tundra.

Kipp prefers the character shots of candid street photography to landscapes, although he once took a bus tour from Salt Lake City across Wyoming to Mount Rushmore and described the scenery as “spectacular.”

Dr. Kipp just returned from a one-week trip to Peru where he climbed in the Andean Mountains to see Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas. This proved to be a challenging trip in many ways. First of all Kipp, speaks no Spanish, and communicated mainly by drawing pictures when translators were not available.

He describes Peru as a very poor country and one in which care must be taken concerning health issues. Before leaving the United States, Kipp received an inoculation injection that provides 30 days protection against Hepatitis A, which he says is very prevalent in Peru.

Sand fleas that inhabit the Andean Mountains cause a disease called bartonellosis, which produces fevers and skin ulcers. Then there are the mosquitoes, which spread malaria.

“I smelled like bug spray the whole trip, and of course, you never drink the water. You even brush your teeth with bottled water,” Kipp said.

When Kipp went to Cuzco, a town 11,500 feet above sea level, he experienced some mountain sickness.

Kipp also had occasion to use his medical knowledge on the Peruvian trip. One of the other persons on the tour came down with severe food poisoning as they were about to leave the country. Amazingly, Kipp found he was able to buy medical equipment and medicine at the airport and started an IV on the fellow traveler.

Other trips have taken Kipp to Japan, where he went last summer to visit his brother, a resident of Ayeshi, and to Venice at carnival time. One of the photos he took of people in carnival attire won third place in a photographic competition held in Venice.

A river boat cruise into the Amazon and an African photo safari are places on Kipp’s “bucket list”—places he would like to see before he dies.

Kipp said he has never worried about his personal safety, but said you do have to use common sense and be vigilant when traveling abroad. He recommends persons considering foreign travel consult the State Department Web site for warnings concerning travel to certain countries.

There are also inconveniences in foreign travel. When visiting Japan he found he had to be fingerprinted in customs. In Peru he had to show his Visa at each hotel. He also has a sense that Americans are not as well liked internationally as they once were 20 to 30 years ago.

Although the people in Peru are largely isolated from the rest of the world, Kipp said they all were aware Barack Obama was elected president of the United States.

“They were very much for Obama, thinking it will make the U.S. a better country,” he added.

Dr. Kipp’s office walls are decorated with framed photographs from his travels, as well as some of his digital art. The general public will have an opportunity to see Kipp’s work in September as the Decatur County Arts Council has invited him to have a show at the Firehouse Gallery

Although Kipp enjoys his adventures and the people he meets, he proclaims, “I’m just an old Kentucky boy that does photography.”