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: August 2008

Some Announcements:


This blog has officially been up for one year and I feel overwhelmed with gratitude as what began as a simple addition to my website has blossomed into an amazing community of friends. Thank you for being here, it means the world to me. As promised, I’ll be giving away some anniversary goodies in celebration!

Here’s the deal:

I get quite a bit of traffic on my blog on a daily basis but very few comments…so I decided to try something fun. Regardless of whether you check in daily, monthly, or have stumbled upon my little blog for the very first time today, I want to hear from you! Leave your name and where you’re from and I’ll randomly select two iTunes gift card winners. Winners will be announced on Friday, September 5th, so check back then to see if you’re the lucky winner of some free music! Anyone who comments on this post can win these, so pass on the good word!


My work e-mail has been down for nearly two days. Everything is back up to speed now, but if you e-mailed me within the last couple of days and have not received a reply, please try again. Thanks in advance and my apologies for the inconvenience!


My fall class schedule at Blue Apple Studios in Aptos will be finalized this weekend, so look for an official announcement early next week. Polaroid may not be making 669 film anymore, but I’ve been stockpiling something fierce!


My dear friend Amy at Peek, aren’t you curious is sponsoring an auction on her blog for a friend and her husband who were involved in a serious plane crash recently and remain hospitalized and in critical condition. Amy is generously auctioning off several of Peek’s amazing children’s outfits, books, and a even a Like a Bike! 100% of the profits will go to recovery and family expenses (the couple has four small children).

Here is one of the adorable outfits being auctioned off:

For more information on the auction, or to view all of the prizes and offer your bid, CLICK HERE, drop Amy a line and name a price! Amy, you rock!

I leave you with a few new images from a shoot last weekend.

Peace to you this weekend. Oh, yes…and don’t forget to leave a comment!

Annie & Jonathan’s Country Wedding, the Wedding Day Post!

Here is the post y’all have been waiting so patiently for…

Before I show you the images, however, I’d like to share the list of amazing vendors who made this wedding day so brilliant:

Flawless Wedding Coordination: Robin & Matt of Oak Lodge; Bride’s Gown: Michelle Roth; Bridesmaids’ dresses: J Crew; Venue: Oak Lodge; Catering, Bar, and Rentals: Elegant Catering; Brewery: Harpoon Lager; Cake: Burd’s Bakery; Flowers: T. Cumberledge Floral; Hair: From Head to Toe Spa; Invitations: Heather Toupin; Calligraphy: Jill Velez; Cocktail Hour Music: Pitt Jazz Ensemble; Reception Music: Groove Doctors.

The wedding day started out with a Yoga class instructed by the groom. He was amazing.

The amount of thought that went into this entire weekend was truly unbelievable, there were even pony rides for the kids!

And a John Deere Gator Parade through some of the trails on the property.

One of my favorite people at the wedding was Oak Lodge employee, Donut John! He lead the Gator parades and even offered guests an impromptu history lecture. He was fantastic! D.J. was a baker for 20 years before he came to work at the Lodge, and because the property manager’s name is also John, he was given this nickname, which stuck!

While I was shooting details on the main property, Kevin went to the Lake Party and got some amazing shots.

The Gators arriving at Lake Phyllis.

My absolute favorite, hands down:

I love a bride who jumps in a lake just a few hours before saying “I do”!

On my way down to meet the bride, I ran into the bridesmaids and Wade decorating the getaway car…

…and I couldn’t resist this self portrait.

Let me guess…a college friend’s hybrid?

And then I found Annie! Angela of From Head To Toe Spa was so amazing! Everyone’s hair looked gorgeous.

The Bridesmaids were all such wonderful women, I simply adored them.

I like grabbing some creative portraits of Bridesmaids at they prepare:

When I shoot weddings, I have this thing about something old, new, borrowed, and blue. Particularly the blue part. I’d love to someday make a book of all of my “something blue” images. This is one of the most original ones yet, a blue pom pom for the rear view mirror!

Annie’s Michelle Roth Wedding Gown blew my mind.

I just love the look on her face here.

I’m just going to play this one off as if it’s a normal wedding day image.

A sucker for detail shots…

I was inspired by the 1950’s feel of Annie’s gown and decided to create a little series with a vintage feel.

I was so impressed by the way that Annie seamlessly combined whimsy and sophistication into her wedding day. This inspired me to get creative and try something new. I photographed a detail of Annie’s fabulous gown, toned it, and then layered it onto a few portraits, creating a textured effect.

Meanwhile, Kevin was with Jonathan and the guys. I love the next three images that he captured:

The Wedding Officiant was the mayor of Ligonier, which I thought was perfect.

I love this image that Kevin captured of Annie. I think that she looks so beautiful.

I just loved the nostalgic look and feel of this entire day.

When I photograph a couple fresh from their wedding ceremony, I make a conscious effort to hang back for the first few minutes and let them have some time together, to relish their first moments as husband and wife. I often get the best images during this time as they are always honest and spontaneous.

(note the blue pom pom!)

Annie and Jonathan, thank you! It has been my honor to share your wedding with you both. Your love for one another is as charming as the town of Ligonier, as vast and beautiful as the view from the Red Barn, and as powerful as, well, a John Deere Gator! May you always continue smiling at one another.

With Love,


Why I Love Outtakes

Outtakes, I love ’em.

I usually love them more than the images that make the cut. Much more. This is especially true in regards to family portrait sessions. When I was a kid, we had family portraits taken on a regular basis. We would get all done up, drive to an undisclosed photography studio in our town, and sit in front of a medium gray backdrop with lights shining in our faces for what felt like hours. While my family was by no means wealthy, I remember countless trips to this undisclosed studio during my childhood years accompanied by stacks of wallet-sized prints and a few God-awful canvases in which our eyelashes were painted on. I’m not kidding.

Documentation was important to my parents, and I can completely understand why. My mother battled cancer on and off for years before passing away when I was ten. I’m sure that my parents both felt a fair amount of urgency in regards to this type of memory preservation. To this day, I still attribute my love of photography to my mother’s interrupted life, and I still feel a sense of underlying urgency when I have a camera in my hand. I am terrified that I’ll miss something really important.

Because it’s all really important, isn’t it?

For the most part, the degree of urgency in which I should be living and photographing my life is a complete mystery to me. But I do know this:

I don’t even remember when I last looked at the studio portrait taken of my sister and I with our grandmother. I know that it exists somewhere but I haven’t thought about it in years. However, I can tell you every detail about the little square photograph of her holding a rescued bird in her hands. She was standing in her blooming garden and wearing a white dress and a blue apron around her waist, both of which she sewed herself. Her head is mostly cut off in the photo but I can see her smile. I coddle that photo like nobody’s business.

And the photograph of my family with painted-on eyelashes? It means absolutely nothing to me to this day. Every time I visit my dad, I barely notice the canvas which now sits on a dresser in his guest bedroom. And when I do look at it, I feel like I’m looking at four complete strangers with really bad hair and creepy eyelashes. However, on my dresser at home sits a snapshot of my mother with my sister and I in the mid-70s. She is holding us and looking just slightly away, appearing both overwhelmed and content at the same time. It often catches my eye as I pass, and although I have no memory of the actual moment, I find myself diving back into the picture and into her memory. I stop, notice my cheek pressed up against hers and my arms draped around her neck like a baby monkey… and my heart just about bursts every time.

Ever since last Sunday’s portrait session, this has been on my mind. I photographed four kids between the ages of six months and four years, two sets of parents, one set of grandparents, one dog who occasionally made an appearance and stirred things up a bit, a playground, and a bubble machine. I got so many outtakes, ie: real moments that served as precious reminders of who these children actually are, that I just had to share a few. I guess that you could call this entire photo shoot one big outtake, and I can’t think of anything better….enjoy!

Bailey and I hung out a little bit before everyone showed up.

My buddy Aidan. This is the third time I’ve photographed him and he wanted nothing to do with me whatsoever. He was totally onto me, but I did manage to sneak in a few shots.

Precious. I’d take this image over a frozen smile shot any day.

I adored this child! She was the oldest of the group and quite proud of it!

Not sure why, but I absolutely love this image.

The last time I photographed Oliver, he was barely two weeks old. He has grown so much and has the best personality.

A few group shots..all outtakes, by the way.

In case you were wondering, I did get some of the whole team smiling at the camera…but I just couldn’t pass this one up (call me crazy, but this family doesn’t strike me as the medium-gray background, frozen smile, painted on eyelash type).

Thank you, Laura…I had a such wonderful time with all of you!

More Love, Infinite Love

I feel so blessed to have been here on Saturday. I got to capture what was possibly this summer’s foggiest, mistiest, and most magical evening. I also got to photograph two of the most vibrant people I’ve ever met.

J & M, thank you…It was an honor taking these photographs! If I don’t have the best job in the world, I don’t know who does.

Blue Apple Studios ~ fall classes!

I just found out that I’ll be at Blue Apple Studios teaching classes again this fall. Yeah! The details aren’t finalized yet, but I’ll announce the class dates and times next week. Look for more Polaroid transfer classes for kids as well as a special workshop for parents. We’re also kicking around ideas for a Holga class…oooh yeah! Good stuff on the way!

Confessions of a Karaoke Convert

OK, so today I want to talk about Karaoke.

Not a typical blog post, I know. Nevertheless, this has been on my mind quite a bit lately and I just have to get it off my chest…

So, my friends Annie and Jonathan, who were married on August 9th, had this amazing wedding weekend with three days of festivities. After the rehearsal dinner on Friday night there was a Karaoke party planned. I’ll be honest, up until last Friday night, I hated karaoke. I assumed that it was something that sad, lonely people did after having a few too many cheap domestic beers at really lame bars. Admittedly, when I got the wedding schedule I cringed when I saw Karaoke as a late-night festivity and prayed to the Gods of sanity that this was simply a misprint and that I wouldn’t have to endure this type of torture the night before a big shoot. Usually on the night before a wedding, I like to spend a quiet evening relaxing, cleaning my lenses, and ironing my clothes for the next day. I wasn’t sure what a late night Karaoke party would do for my emotional well-being on a wedding day.

I’m not sure how it happened, exactly…but my ice-cold aversion to this odd activity melted first into understanding, then to respect, then to…well…love. I don’t have the correct words for the change that transpired inside of me on 8/8/08, but I do have a few photos. Enjoy.

I showed up to the bride-to-be belting out a duet with her friend Dave and was mildly disturbed amused.

Apparently there is this book that lists song choices. It was circulating all evening and receiving a fair bit of chuckles.

Karaoke can be quite macho. I noticed some big talk amongst the crowd.

But then I observed the smiles on people’s faces and thought…”Maybe karaoke isn’t so sad and lonely after all…”

I love this shot:

Ok, now down to business:

The talent was pretty tight. I mean, this has got to be the best rendition of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody that two high school biology teachers have ever performed. Ever.

I won’t lie, things did get a little intense there for a moment…

So I headed outside to the campfire, had a s’more, and took a breather. The s’more lady was adorable, don’t you think?

Thankfully, when I returned, things had simmered down a bit. My love for karaoke was pretty much solidified here.

And here.

And here, of course.

The look of a performer after smoking the competition.

And the look of a satisfied customer. I’d definitely say that Friday night’s kareoke show was well worth the price of admission!

The die hards. Notice Kevin, my second shooter in the background. What a slacker!

Biology, bowling, and belting it out!

Was karaoke an elective at Pomona or something?

Make no mistake, though…Annie was the star of the show!

More on this awesome weekend to come!

**EDITED TO ADD: My apologies to anyone who saw the early version of this post, where I repeatedly misspelled the word Karaoke. I didn’t even think to spell check this as I had never even considered it a real word! My Bad.

Annie & Jonathan’s Country Wedding Pt. 1

My dear friends Annie and Jonathan were married last weekend at Oak Lodge in beautiful Stahlstown, Pennsylvania. Stahlstown is nestled in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania and has a country charm that is uniquely it’s own. We arrived late on Thursday evening and woke up to a glorious morning. I arrived on the property and instantly began snapping away at a few signs that caught my eye (for those of you who may not know, I have quite an affinity for signs of all types)…

I was lucky enough to be included in the bridesmaid’s lunch, which was held at the fabulous Ivy Cafe in nearby Ligonier. The food was to die for!

The beautiful bride taking care of a few last-minute details…

I absolutely love Annie’s new mother-in-law, she is lovely.

It just so happened that T. Cumberledge Floral, the wedding florist’s shop was across the street from Ivy Cafe. I couldn’t resist popping in and checking out the flowers. I loved the way that they looked in the buckets, just waiting for Karen’s magic touch…

And then it was off to the rehearsal dinner. The happy couple received a warm welcome.

Some new friends…

And a few details…

I love this touch of Pennsylvania charm, designed by none other than the amazing “Donut John” (more on D.J. later), who did all of the rehearsal dinner centerpieces.

The rehearsal dinner guests were entertained by The Boilermakers. They were unbelievable! here are a few candid shots of them performing.

What would I have done without my brother-in-law, Kevin?? He flew in all the way from Lake Tahoe to be my second shooter for the weekend. Although he looks pretty bitter in this image, he’s actually one of the kindest individuals you’ll ever meet, and although it may not appear like it, we get along quite well. More on Kevin and his work soon (send me those shots, Kev!).

Please check back over the weekend for Annie and Jonathan’s Country Wedding Part 2. This was such a fun-filled weekend that I’ve decided to post many images over the course of a few days. Oh, and I almost forgot one last image…

I do love this candid moment between Annie and Jonathan during the toasts on Friday night. Congratulations, you two!

Happy Friday, everyone!

A sneak peek…

This weekend’s wedding was amazing. I just returned home last night, and after 16 hours of sleep, I am finally feeling recovered! I will be posting a few favorites from the weekend in the next few days, but until then, a tiny little sneak peek…

Check back tomorrow for Annie & Jonathan’s Country Wedding Part 1!

What a terrible blogger I’ve been!

Please excuse my lack of blogging, we have been traveling for both work and personal reasons and have been without much internet access. I’ve found myself bouncing back and forth between anxiety and relief without internet access…technology is funny that way.

We were in Minnesota last week for my niece’s birthday party and are now hanging out with family in my native Ohio. On Thursday I leave for Stahlstown, PA for Annie and Jonathan’s fabulous destination wedding, which I couldn’t be more excited about! My awesome brother-in-law, Kevin, is flying out from his new home in Lake Tahoe to be my second shooter. He recently started his photography business and we’ll be working together for the first time. He’s an awesome person and a fabulous photographer, so I’m honored to have him and I’ll be posting some of his images from the weekend as well. The wedding is actually a three day event, so I plan on writing a separate post for each day. Needless to say, I have a ton to blog and I promise to be better about this for the remainder of my trip.

For now, here are some random images from our adventures…

Meet two of our new friends, Coty the dog and Penny the kitten. Aren’t they handsome/lovely???

One thing I love so much about Ohio in the summer is the wildflowers. Particularly Queen Anne’s Lace (I’m not sure if this is the flower’s real name, but it’s what we called it as kids). I see it a little bit in California, but the fields are literally covered in it here. I actually asked my florist to put some in my wedding bouquet and he looked at me as if I was crazy. As kids we would pick a bunch of these flowers, put them in food-coloring and watch in awe as they turned colors. They were always prettier in white, but it was fun to do.

We found a field and the girls had fun…

My blog is almost one year old and I wanted to extend my heartfelt gratitude to all of my readers. You are all wonderful and are very much appreciated. What started out as a simple addition to my website has manifested into a small online community of really great people. I appreciate the fact that you take time out of your busy schedules to peek in on my life and work, it is truly an honor.

I have a really cool one year anniversary celebration in store and it involves prizes for my blog readers, so stay tuned!

Thanks again for stopping by and enjoy this day…