In the camera bag of… Olivier Lavielle!

In our second edition of the special “What is in your bag?” the Panasonic LUMIX Ambassador Olivier Lavielle is opening his camera bag for us. The camera bag is the most important companion for every photographer. Filled with professional equipment, accessories and memories. Today Olivier is sharing his best stories and useful tips with us.  

What type of camera bag do you use and why?

“I used to have a big backpack with wheels. But this was a long time ago, when I was carrying my reflex and all the lenses with me. Now that I am fully equipped with the best of Panasonic LUMIX camera everything has changed. I divided my load by four, so now I can use a more fashionable bag, which suits me better. It has a nice vintage look. It’s small, fashionable and discrete which is essential to me, because I shoot in very sensible places from time to time. It’s three times smaller than my reflex bag and I can carry the same tools to do my work.

But I am also a photojournalist. Different job, different gear. When I have to shoot a sports event or cultural event, my vintage bag is enough. But when I have to shoot a riot or any kind of violence, I have to protect my cameras as well as myself. I have to be able to move freely: run, climb and hide without being impeded in any way. So I designed a specific tool with the help of a military gear expert (Jean Paul Kam) who also works in the movie industry. It’s basically a military tactical vest with ballistic protections. It has been tailor made to meet my photographic needs. I have two quick release connections to plug on my GX8 and GX80 mounted respectively with the 12/35 and the 100/400, ready to shoot. I’m also carrying a flash light and I have multiple pockets for batteries and accessories. Naturally I also carry a flask of water which is vital when you spend many ours to run, climb and hide. I also use this specific gear when I go shooting wild animals in Africa, for the same reasons.”

What do you take with you on a shoot?

“My bag is a tool at itself. It helps me to carry my cameras, but also everything I need for a shoot. I always clean my gear in my hotel room. When you’re out on a shoot it’s too late to think about cleaning. So I just bring the minimum (a micro fiber tissue, and a spray of cleaning solution). I carry two cameras: a GX8 and GX80 plus a GH4 if I need to shoot some awesome videos. I also bring a 15 mm Leica for landscape and street photography, a 12/35 for absolutely everything, the excellent 42,5 Leica Nocticron for portrait, and 100/400 for sports, animals, and many more. Of course I have 3 or 4 SD cards as backup. One or two LED lights just in case. Spare batteries for the GX8. An USB power pack of high capacity or a solar power pack (depends where I m shooting) to charge my phone and the GX80. My Smart Phone of course, which is my GPS, note book, remote controller with the Panasonic app, my personal assistant with Depth of field app and more. And of course it’s vital for sharing my experiences in live on the social networks. You’ll also find my passport, my press card (It can save your day when things goes wrong!), and, very important, my business card to keep in touch with people I meet. Occasionally, I bring one or two sports cameras. The rest of my stuff stays at home or at the hotel room.”

Is that one of the advantages of a compact camera, that you can travel light(er)?

“As long as I don’t have to bring my reflex anymore (except for specific work) I can travel lighter and that’s just a revolution! With my two reflex cameras  and lenses, I learned to travel only with the bare essential. I didn’t change it when I start to work with my LUMIX. So everything changed! I travel lighter, so I can do much more.”

Did you ever forget your bag, camera or something important you really needed with a shoot?

“As I’ve travelled a lot, I learned to be well organized. I’m also director of photography in the movie industry. This job taught me to organize more than everything else or even anybody else, including my mom who spent 18 years begging me to organize my bedroom! There is only one thing I lose constantly: lens caps… I never understand where they go… I can have the most organized bag ever, I always come back home with one or two lens caps missing… But I found a solution! I buy caps in advance. I have a box at home full of spare caps.”


Olivier Lavielles camera bag

Olivier Lavielles camera bag


Olivier using his camera in action!

Olivier using his camera in action!

Somewhere else...

The wide range of Oliviers pictures:

The eyes of the tiger

The eyes of the tiger

A historic trail from America.

A historic trail from America.

Light Station.

Light Station.

Can you think of a moment everything went wrong or the opposite: everything came together during a photo trip?

“It ‘s a long time ago. I just bought my first camera. I decided to go visit my friend in North Los Angeles to fly with him on one of his Fouga Magister (one of the most exiting airplane ever!) and take some pics of it. So I took a plane to California, rented a car and drove one hour north in the middle of the desert of Mojave. This desert is amazing; every single fan of aviation knows it. First of all you can find a big airplane boneyard in the desert. There is also one of the biggest Air Force bases in the USA, Edwards Air Force Base. Around Edwards, there are a lot of little public airports, like California City, where I was heading for this day.

The sky is blue and the sun is shining this February morning. The temperature shown on my dashboard is decreasing very fast. It’s not common in this area even in February, but I’m not worried: it will be a good flight with that military jet. My friend is already there and the plane is ready to fly. But Frederic is a bit worried. The barometer indicates a big perturbation, the wind begins to pick up, it is freezing. But we take off anyway. We have a good time despite of the wind. At a higher altitude we can observe big clouds coming in from the mountains. The wind is getting stronger. We land, secure the plane, drink a hot drink and Frederic leaves me with this advice: ‘don’t stay to long, the weather is changing very fast in this area!’ I might have missed this advice. I’m only focused on the wonderful DC3 parked on the runway. This plane is a legend, I really needed to shoot it, my wall would love it! I spent an hour looking at it, analyze it, and admire it, and then shoot it. My fingers are frozen, as well as the rest of my body. This plane facing the mountains with this sky full of clouds absorbs me… Then something happens that never happens in Mojave… The snow begins to fall. God dam, I have to go… Too late… I jump in my car and I try to reach the highway. Definitively too late. This storm is huge! I’ve to stop in a Denny’s Diner with many other truck drivers who are trapped by this incredible snowstorm. My first shooting and I didn’t have time to do everything I wanted just because I didn’t pay attention to my environment…. It’s a harsh lesson!…But I’m in a diner so I order a burger and clam chowder ended with a vanilla milkshake. I go to my car fighting the blizzard to take my computer and I start to look at the pictures I took of the DC3. A couple of milkshake later, my wall found its picture…

And the wall of many people around the world. This picture is called Desert Storm, one of my best sellers. The picture that made me a professional photographer, that made me an artist, is born in a diner in the middle of Mojave Desert during a snow storm. I almost lost my fingers, I got lost in the snow, I took 10 kilos staying in a diner for 12 hours. Sometimes everything goes wrong, but, in the middle of it, something can change your life! It was my first shooting, the worst but at the same time the most magical!

Do you have tips/pointers for our readers for items they shouldn’t forget on a shoot/ photo trip? And more in general, any advice for our readers?

If I had one piece of advice, it’s: plan your shooting. Pay attention to every single technical issue you may come across. It could be a pure technical issue, weather issue, cultural issue etc… Anticipation is the key, because creation needs you to be focused on it! Be sure you have the right lenses for the right subject, be sure you’ll have enough light, pay attention to the environment, and respect people! (There is a secret to seduce the people no matter their culture: A SMILE!). We, photographers, we are used to pay great attention to our cameras. But don’t forget to pay attention to yourself. A good pair of shoes, the right clothes, a pair of gloves, a cap, solar protection, water, a comfortable bag and so on. All those single things can ruin your trip if it’s missing!

And in general, you might be surprised but I don’t have any advice for you. If you have a camera, you are photographer! And if you are photographer, you are an artist! And art is pure freedom. Get out! Travel! Open your eyes and share! You are the witness of your own world. Your camera is a wonderful tool: with it you can create an image that shows the world what is on your mind. So show it and never let anybody tells you how to do it. Just do it! Don’t forget, not everybody will love your work. And most important, art doesn’t exist if it’s not shared. So expose your art! Show it on social networks, create an emotion no matter what emotion. So, my only advice: Shoot and share!”

Do you want to read more about Olivier? Check his website:

Olivier's Hints & Tips

Plan your shooting! Think of every single technical issue and detail. Check your equipment, your lenses, the batteries and of course the camera. Everything should work! Moreover it is important to look after yourself. Are you wearing the right shoes? Did you check the weather and bring a jacket? A perfect plan and a good preparation are the keys to a successful shooting.

Every photographer is an artist and art is pure freedom. Travel as much as you can and capture the most beautiful moments with your loved camera! Show the world what is in you mind because art doesn’t exist if it’s not shared.