We know since VCM that photon mapping can be seen as a path sampling method. Therefore, I want to first refer to
Raab et al. (2008) "Unbiased Global Illumination with Participating Media"
for the concise path integral formulation of volume rendering.
I use the stochastic progressive variant of photon mapping with the global radius decay from
Knaus & Zwicker (2011) "Progressive Photon Mapping: A Probabilistic Approach"
To generate photon paths I use Woodcock tracking, essentially. In "Spectral and Decomposition Tracking for Rendering Heterogeneous
Volumes", Kutz et al. (2017) developed many extensions of this. I use the "spectral tracking" variant. I put a volume photon on every sampled interaction point.
When tracing eye paths, I obtain volume interaction points by the same tracking methods as used for photon mapping. At these points I look for nearby photons and add their contribution. That is, in the basic variant with Point-Point 3D estimators. In "The Beam Radiance Estimate for Volumetric Photon Mapping", Jarosz et al. (2008) developed a method to gather photons along a beam. I implemented this also. The three pics are rendered with it. It is good for thin media. Actually, I like this paper a lot. Not only presents it the beam thing, in Sec. 3.3 it also has a nice derivation of the photon weights.
In denser media I don't want to look for photons all the way to the next surface intersection. So I use a piecewise-constant stochastic estimate of the transmittance along the query beam. This essentially allows to cut off the query beam after a few mean free path lengths. Inspiration for this comes from Jarosz et al. (2011) "Progressive Photon Beams" Sec. 5.2.1 and Krivanek (2014) "Unifying Points, Beams, and Paths in Volumetric Light Transport Simulation" Sec. 4.2 "Long" and "short" beams.
You can ask me about specifics. I'll try to answer
But to be honest, this is very much brute force
. If you want to render SSS in such dense media as I took for the Buddha, you might be better off using a fast approximation!
Regarding Walter et al.'s rough transmittance model: I think I finally got it right. Here is a recreation of Figure 1
I "only" implemented the Beckmann NDF with V-Cavity masking & shadowing function. Looks fine and I don't have to implement VNDF sampling to keep the weights low. I also noticed numerical issues with low alpha. But IIRC I get it to 1e-3 with no issue. And at that point the material looks pretty much perfectly specular. I do shading calculations in double precision though.
Btw. Since you mention GGX: Heitz recently released a paper on how to sample the VNDF for GGX more easily.
I thought about implementing it ... For you it is probably worthwhile if you don't have it already.