Today at Dame Traveler, we’re sharing a surreal story! With our new series #DTBehindTheLens, we’re empowering the women behind the lens of the camera. We’re honored and thrilled to introduce Ling McGregor of Cereal for Lunch in our second spotlight of this series!
Ling’s work is truly eye-catching and her story leaves us feeling inspired — with a bowl of cereal in hand. Today, we’re discussing Ling’s unique story and why she’d like the travel industry to start celebrating female travel photographers.
Hi Ling! Could you give us a brief introduction to who you are and what you do?
Hi! I’m from Sydney, Australia. I’m so excited for the chance to share my travel photography with you as part of Dame Traveler’s series. First up, I’m not a fulltime photographer or blogger so I feel incredibly humbled to be featured here.
During the week I work as a lawyer in an environmental and climate change practice. Alongside this though, I think it’s important to give time to the things that you love. I try to create as much as possible and have a huge passion for art and photography; I studied writing, draw portraits, and photograph at every chance I get.
While on a trip around the world with my boyfriend, Jason, I recently started sharing my travel photography in particular. On this trip we also decided to create a blog called Cereal for Lunch for creative travellers—lovers of art, history, culture and dreamy destinations.
What are the favourite destinations you’ve photographed so far?
Wherever we go, I love to find and photograph surreal scenes. On this theme, some of my favourite photographs have come from the desert across the Chilean and Bolivian Altiplano—flamingos crowd red lagoons, there’s a desert stretch named after Salvador Dali, and if you wait long enough, you can catch a sly fox between volcanic rocks.
Having said that, these destinations are always spectacular, and you can kind of just show up with a camera. On the other hand, I also love street photography because there are so many small scenes to construct from the chaos. Some of the best street scenes have come from Cusco, as well as cities in Cuba, Morocco and Japan.
What is it that you aim to photograph during your travel experiences?
I think that photography can really compliment travel—it brings a creative aspect to the trip and allows you to document and remember everything along the way. When travelling, the main priority is to see and experience as much of a place as possible; I’m most motivated to explore its art scene, the unique landscapes or architecture, as well as its history, markets and street life.
Hopefully the pictures that I take mirror this travel style, as I want to capture small parts of each destination and the experiences that I’ve had there. I try to post a mix of things and keep a balance between places and portraits. I also tend to photograph scenes that I would like to draw, and usually this means highlighting people, small details and vibrant colours.
Why do you think it’s important for women photographers to be celebrated in the travel industry?
It’s important for women to be upheld and celebrated in every industry! In the early 1900s, women actually made up quite a large percentage of the photography profession—at a time when it was still quite unusual for women (in the West) to even have a profession. Unfortunately, this declined with the advent of photojournalism, and it remained a male-dominated industry for decades.
It’s easier than ever for everyone to publish their work though, and over time photography has become such an important way to subvert the traditional gaze in the arts, and to share women’s perspectives and experiences, as well. There are so many talented female photographers, and I really support Dame Traveler in making a space to specifically promote their work through this series.
Are there any changes you would like to see happen in the travel industry?
I support making changes which leave a more positive effect on places, and think I have a personal responsibility to find ways to travel as sustainably as possible. On my last long trip, this has meant:
- visiting fewer places and spending more time in each one;
- traveling through each country in a linear way, rather than continuously flying from place to place;
- supporting local creators, for example by buying directly from individual artists or makers;
- avoiding travelling in peak times, especially to destinations that are severely impacted by over-tourism;
- prioritising fair wages over scoring cheap deals; and
- trying to reduce waste.
Most of these changes have complimented the way that I like to travel. For example, I prefer to explore many different parts of just one country, rather than visiting a few places in many different countries; the ideal situation would be to hire an apartment, cook from local food, and explore one area over as many days as possible. I also really love to meet artists along the way and know that I’m leaving with authentic and ethically produced textiles, jewellery or ceramics.
I’m definitely not trying to say that anyone needs to change the way that they travel specifically—do whatever you want, and most importantly enjoy your trip! But I do think that businesses and consumers need to consider ways to enhance sustainability, particularly if we want certain places to remain viable tourist destinations.
Through your experiences, what has travel taught you?
Travel has always been quite central as I have a mixed Chinese and Scottish heritage. I think some of the most important things that it can highlight are history, diversity, and continuing traditions. Overall, it weirdly makes the world seem big and small simultaneously.
Have you ever faced any hard circumstances or issues as a female traveler or female travel photographer?
What piece of advice would you give to new female travel photographers?
I’ve been so hesitant to answer this because I’m definitely still learning, too. With travel photography in particular, I don’t think there’s any need to travel to a specific destination just because it might seem photogenic. Once you have your eye out, it’s easier to find something to shoot wherever you are—just try to look for interesting scenes and different views of the place that you’re in.
In terms of getting started, the best thing is to experiment until you develop a personal style that you’re happy with. At first this will probably involve spending just as much time on the editing process as actually taking the shots—it can take a while to get familiar with the adjustments that you need to suit different conditions, and to figure out how you like different types of photographs to be framed. Once you have a range of good shots, make your photos more unique by experimenting with different shades and tones.
I now edit and colour my photos in a very specific way, usually by increasing the luminance, bringing down the highlights, and emphasising the red and green tones (all of these changes can be made in pretty much any editing application). I’ll include a before and after comparison so that you can see the difference that the editing process makes.
I don’t think it’s necessary to invest in the most expensive or professional gear straight away either. I’ve been really lucky recently to be able to use an older DSLR to get started, but the lens eventually became quite limiting. It’ll be clear when you need to upgrade from a phone or first camera to better gear once you know what you want out of your shots, and then it’s a probably good idea to connect with other photographers to learn about the best gear to suit the type of photography that you’re interested in.
Thank you so much for sharing your story and experience, Ling! Be sure to check out her incredible photographic work.
It’s time to elevate female photographers. Who’s work would you like for us to spotlight next?