It seems that life should be so easy for the travel photographer. You visit wonderful places, you snap great pictures of amazing sights, you head home with a flashcard full of wondrous images. If only.
In fact, the travel photographer - or the traveling photographer - is bedeviled with an ongoing onslaught of challenges. Some are predictable, and others just spring out of nowhere. On a recent trip to Italy I faced circumstances that ranged from a change in operating hours, making it impossible to visit a key site, to a steady four days of rain, to the fact that major portions of an impressive cathedral are currently under repair and covered in scaffolding.
When you're planning a significant journey, with arrangements that must be made weeks or months in advance, there is simply no way to be prepared for every eventuality. Not to mention the fact that, no matter how industrious one may be, it is impossible to be at every key location during the most magical hours at dawn and dusk.
Which is why, when you ask many travel photographers how they happened to capture a particularly extraordinary shot, the answer is likely to be some version of, "I went there again and again over a period of years."
All that said, one cannot toss away all the opportunities of an important trip just because of a little rain, or scaffolding or a cranky portiere. Instead, we rethink, come up with a different approach, and come away with images that are every bit as satisfying, if not more so for their unexpectedness.
And of course, on top of employing personal creativity to the max, we also make like Boy Scouts and go prepared.
To that degree, I give my equipment a lot of thought. It's one thing to pile it all into a car and head for the mountains near home. It's another to get on a plane to places far more distant. When I went to Europe, here's what I took:
A roomy camera bag that is 30 years old, doesn't look much like a camera bag, and definitely doesn't look as if it contains anything of value.
Two lenses. A 28-300 zoom, and 16-35mm wide angle. Between the two of them, there is little I can't capture.
A tripod. While I have a terrific RRS tripod, at 7 pounds it doesn't travel well. For hiking and trips, I have a Benro Travel Angel with built-in ballhead. 2.9 pounds, folds down to 16 inches, and comes with a very practical carry bag.
A Wolverine for on-the-road backup. I don't reformat flashcards until the images are on the big computer at home - but the Wolverine gives me immediate backup. It gets packed in the suitcase, the flashcards go with me on the plane. I might lose one or the other, but am most unlikely to lose both.
Several cheap spare showercaps that I've picked up in various hotels. Perfect for those rainy days.
Extra pairs of cheap readers - I always have a pair of these glasses on a leash around my neck.
Two flashcard holders. A black one for flashcards that are ready to use. A red one (stop!) for those that hold current images.
And that's about it. With this equipment, I came home from Italy with plenty of fine images, despite the hurdles that major trips always seem to include. Those images include the rainy day HDR shot of the Ponte di Alpini in Bassano del Grappa you see below - a shot that was only possible because I had my tripod with me at all times.