jo ann manolis photography

Welcome to the blog of Jo Ann Manolis Photography! I’m a wedding, portrait, and fine art photographer based in Santa Cruz, CA. I’ve created this blog as a means of sharing my work and life with my clients, family, and friends. I’ll be updating it regularly with my latest work, thoughts and ideas regarding photography and art, and links to many fabulous artists and vendors. So, take a look around, enjoy, and leave me a message here if you’re inspired. I can also be reached directly by e-mail via my website:, or by phone at: (831)359-7948. Thanks for stopping by!

Monthly Archives: June 2008


This has been an incredibly sad week for Pat and I. Our beautiful cousin, Meghan passed away last week after a 17 month battle with cancer. She and her husband, Steve were the first family members of Pat’s that I met. I remember loving her smile and her fabulous New Jersey accent.

She was loved by so many people for so many reasons, and although I could write about Meghan for days, I wanted to post just a few things about her that always struck me. Things that I’ll never forget and always relish.

Meghan was fascinated by religion, always up for a good joke, ornery, hilarious, sexy, an awesome painter, a hard worker, and not afraid of much.

She loved children, road trips, her husband like crazy, animals (I’ll never forget the time that she invited a soaking-wet neighborhood cat inside on a rainy evening…they cuddled all night), Ben & Jerry’s, good food, good beer, good wine, and the ocean.

She had photographs of her family on her walls, UFO stories that would blow your mind, surfboards stacked in her family room, a heart of gold, a crazy-successful business, and a laugh that was infectious.

She cursed like a sailor, fought like a champ, smiled like the warm sun, and left us with countless laugh-out-loud memories.

Pat and I are inspired by her humor, her courage, her life. She left a permanent thumb print on our hearts. We will never forget her.

Our thoughts and prayers are with our wonderful cousin Steve and Meghan’s amazing family.

With love and tears, we’ll miss you, Megs. website of the week!

I’m excited to share some really great news today.

I use a company called for my online event viewing and print sales. I love them for so many reasons. Their event galleries are simple and easy to navigate. Their customer service is awesome. They donate their services to a charity that I recently became a member of (more about that later this week). I could go on and on…but, bottom line: they’re great.

Each week, looks through hundreds of their newest event websites and chooses both a portrait and a wedding site to feature as their Website of the Week. I’ve been viewing these featured sites for over a year now and have always marveled at the amazing talent out there.

That’s why I can admit that I was shocked when they informed me that I was chosen as this week’s Portrait Website of the Week! Needless to say, I’m honored and very grateful.

I will, however, give most of the credit to this amazing family who made my job look and feel easy by making it impossible to take a bad picture!

If I’ve learned one thing in my career so far, it is that there is nothing more beautiful than happy children…

A {belated} Father’s Day Post

I’m probably biased, but I honestly I think that Pat’s the best Dad I’ve ever known.

At the risk of being repetitive, I’ll post my favorite quote again as it is so pertinent here (and my sincere apologies to the author of this quote, I wish that I knew your name) ~

“To know when you have enough is to be rich without measure”

Happy Fathers Day, Sweetie. We Love You!

Light and Fast Seminar w/ John Mireles and Jules Bianchi

I did another really cool thing while I was in L.A. last week. Two top wedding photographers from Southern California, John Mireles and Jules Bianchi, teamed up and put on the Light and Fast seminar on Thursday, which focused on off camera lighting. I loved this seminar and learned so much. Check out these two photographers, they are truly awesome.

Here is John doing an outdoor lighting demo. He was showing us how to use off-camera lighting to soften the harsh mid day sun.

There was this really cool graffiti wall just outside of the classroom.

Some students were modeling while others were holding reflectors and lights. I on the other hand, was photographing the whole scene and was no help at all!

John does quite a bit of commercial work and shared some great lighting secrets with us.

I love watching other photographers work, I learn so much and get really inspired.

And here is Jules having fun during John’s demo. She was so kind and super-cute! She reminded me so much of my fabulous pal Steph!

Jules had a really great off-camera lighting set-up that I think I’m going to try. Here she is demonstrating how to set it all up.

And then we all crowded around and looked at the results, this is why I love digital!

John and Jules, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and experiences with all of us. I’ll admit that I was pretty intimidated by the concept of lighting off-camera, but you both really broke things down and made it seem doable. I loved picking your brains and asking endless questions…you guys are awesome!

Kids do the most priceless things…

How classic is this? I wish that I could have the guts to walk around with a colander on my head when I’m not in the mood to be seen. What a concept.

Annie & Jonathan! {Los Angeles engagement session}

It’s a funny story, actually…

A few years ago I was considering wedding photography as a new career and was looking for some volunteers to practice on. We were headed to L.A. for the weekend to visit family and at the last minute, I grabbed my wedding dress and shoes before heading out the door. I was feeling optimistic.

I gave my beautiful, fabulous, and incredibly photogenic friend Annie a call. “I need you to dress up like a bride so that I can practice, I even have my dress and shoes with me, are you game?” I tried not to sound desperate. True to form, she happily volunteered not only herself, but her boyfriend of three months, Jonathan to be my couple for the day.

“You’d better ask him.” I suggested, feeling uneasy about this complete stranger donning a suit for my ridiculous whim. “Oh, I will, but I know he’ll say yes. He’s a lot like me.”, she replied. He’s a lot like you or he likes you a lot? I was curious about this guy.

I showed up to Annie’s place the next afternoon to find both she and Jonathan ready for action. “I’ve got a few different suits that could work, which one would you like me to wear?” He politely asked me. I already loved this man and it wasn’t because he brought multiple suits to his fake wedding.

Real-life foreshadowing is always a strange thing.

The “bride and groom” seemed eerily at home in their roles. I remember thinking how well matched these two were and how crushed I’d be if they never really got married someday.

So, you can probably guess where this is going…

Fast forward a few years and here I am with many real weddings under my belt. As for Annie and Jonathan…well, I’ll just let the photos tell their story.

We started at the Fern Dell entrance of Griffith Park and strolled up the path along the creek. I couldn’t believe that we were in L.A! (Thank you, Jonathan for this awesome location!)

The late afternoon sun was peeking through the trees, offering such an amazing glow.

Annie is so lucky, this amazingly hot little sun dress was made by her mother!

I try to keep engagement sessions (you did guess that they’re getting married for real, didn’t you?) as candid as possible, but I saw this bench and got a silly little idea. Thanks for indulging me, guys. These two make me smile:

I love the look on Annie’s face here. Obviously, Jonathan’s got it goin’ on!

I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but there is something that I just love about the next two.

Happiness captured.

Of course, this post would not be complete without a photograph from their “first” wedding…ha! Although I feel that I’ve improved tremendously since, I do love the spirit and excitement that this shot captures.

I cannot wait to photograph Annie and Jonathan’s real destination wedding this August in the gorgeous mountains of Western Pennsylvania. They have so many amazing things planned for the entire weekend and I’m honored to be a part of it.

Annie and Jonathan, thank you! Obviously, being your wedding photographer is a dream come true for me. Your fun, spirited, and respectful partnership is an inspiration. i.simply.cannot.wait!

With much love and many colorful warm fuzzies,


Summer is here {back from L.A.}

Summer is here.

Long lazy days on the beach and sandy, gritty bathtubs. Peaches, plumbs, and nectarines that taste so good I want to cry. Watering our garden and waiting for our first tomato to appear. Corn on the cob. Bike rides, beach toys, sunscreen, laundry hanging out to dry…and weddings.

I just returned to Santa Cruz after a couple of fun days in Los Angeles. I was there for an engagement shoot and a really great photography seminar, both of which I’ll be blogging about very soon (too tired right now-I’m getting ready to fall into bed). I love traveling for work and shooting in other places. I always feel as if I gain a new set of eyes when I leave my environment and expose myself to unfamiliar territory. I do love coming home, though. This is always my favorite part of traveling, hands down.

Our little surfer. I miss him so much when I’m away…

Lots to shoot this summer, more on the way soon. Sweet Dreams…