After years of schlepping two 35mm or 6x4.5cm camera bodies, four or five lenses including a heavy 300 mm telephoto, an electronic flash, various filters, cable releases, cleaning equipment, extra batteries, 100 plus rolls of film, and the huge Domke bag it all fit into, around the world innumerable times, I ended up with a bad back, a screwed up right shoulder, and a comprehensive dislike for heavy photo equipment. Added to my working gear, of course, was the oversized duffle or roller bag of clothing and personal items that I had to carry in order to survive for up to a month away from home. Travel photographers can't usually afford to hire assistants so I often felt more like a mule than a working journalist.
All of that changed when camera companies finally began to upgrade their zoom lens optics, forgoing the need to carry five or six fixed focus lenses while traveling. And when the digital revolution occurred--doing away with film altogether and creating cameras that were sturdier and less prone to breakage than ever before in history--things got even better. Today when I travel, I travel light. My equipment consists of:
Canon Eos 5D body (1)
24mm-105mm zoom lens
Canon 430 EX speedlight (1)
Canon speedlight trigger for off camera shooting
spare batteries for strobe, camera, and trigger
two spare 4 gig memory cards
small bag of cleaning equipment
caption notebook, pens, penlight, and a good novel
two garbage bags for wet weather shooting
All of this fits nicely into a small LowePro backpack which slides easily into an overhead compartment in tourist class or under the seat. I'm sure there are still a lot of photographers out there who would insist that the equipment I carry simply isn't enough to do the job. I can only answer that they should try using their imaginations and talent instead of their backs for once and see what happens.