Photography and travel are necessary companions, one necessarily needs to travel to get to where the subject matter is. Since the advent of digital photography, and the explosion of technology, both in terms of the hardware and the software we use, interest in photography has exploded in a geometrical progression. Once a field left pretty much to professionals there are today thousands of serious amateurs traveling literally to the ends of the Earth bringing back stunning images. But it is not easy.
One of the problems that bedevil every photographer who travels is how to get his gear to where it will be needed? Much of my travel in North America has been by motorhome and taking my gear is simple; I simply fill a basement bin with gear and take it all. But if one has to rely on air transportation problems mount quickly. Unless one feels comfortable checking his expensive gear one has to travel light. The answer, therefore, lies in PLANNING and being brutally strict about what goes. Because I spent many years backpacking I approach travel with a backpackers's mentality. Unless I have a specific use in mind for something it ain't going. This applies to what clothing I take AND to the photography gear I choose. On two of my European trips I limited myself to what amounts to a point and shoot camera, admittedly sophisticated ones, but still less than what I have available with my Nikon SLR. Fortunately there are many ways to "skin a cat" and there are ways to achieve superior results without a lot of gear.
My trips always start with research into what I expect my subject to be and the kinds of pictures I will be taking. If, for instance, my destination is Europe I am not going to be taking my long 400mm lens. In fact, I did quite well with my small Nikon P7100 with a built in lens that gives me a 35mm equivalent focal length range of roughly 28mm to about 260mm, adequate for most needs. Many of the images in the "Visions of Europe" portfolio on this site were taken with that camera. (Note: The Prague panorama accompanying this blog entry was created with the P7100). It has a small built in flash (not powerful) and HDR capability along with other "bells and whistles) that give me some versatility. The real benefit, however, is portability. It is an easy carry-on and doesn't attract attention of would be thieves. I also carried a portable hard drive to store images and up loaded to it on a daily basis. That enabled me to limit the number of digital cards needed and to organize my photos on the go. Now days my iPAD also accompanies me so that I can share images while on the road. If, however, I am going on a wildlife shoot the drill is a bit more complicated.
A trip to Churchill, Manitoba a few years back was specifically to photograph Polar bears. I had a bit invested in that trip and wanted to be sure to that I brought back the "goods". I knew I'd be shooting from various ranges so I was ready with two SLRs, one for my long lens, the other for an 18-200mm lens. That enabled me to shoot from short range or from a distance on quick notice, and gave me a backup in case one camera failed in the field (there would be no field repairs on this trip!). Temperature was a factor so I had three batteries for each camera in case one or two froze up. It didn't happen on that trip, but I have had batteries freeze. I also knew I would need some stability when shooting with the long lens so took a travel tripod with a ball head which I used as a monopod in the vehicle from which we were shooting. I also took my portable hard drive as a storage device. There was other gear but these were the essentials. The plan worked perfectly. By the way, I often found myself shooting with two cameras. The bottom line, however, is that I had a rather large photo bag full of gear which became my carry-on bag; that stuff didn't leave my sight. Clothing was an issue on this trip because I was going to a cold weather destination. All that gear went into a checked bag. My only real problem on that trip was annoyance from Canadian security. Their agent scrupulously unpacked every item of gear and quizzed me on the purpose of each. I basically gave him a course in Photography 101 before he was satisfied.
Traveling photographers have challenges, but with a little thought most are solvable and with today's sophisticated equipment it is possible to achieve superior results with a minimum of gear.