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: September 2008

A story of music

This story begins a few months ago when I was driving to the grocery store and listening to KUSP, Santa Cruz’s Public Radio station. The commentator was interviewing a local musician and I found myself enthralled by what she had to say. I don’t remember specifics, just that she sounded so incredibly bright, thoughtful, and astute. She talked about her decision to take a risk and try to devote herself entirely to her music as opposed to the hobby or side job that it had always been. She sounded so young to be talking of these things. I admired her courage and immediately felt a warm wave of appreciation wash over me. I appreciated the place that she was in because I have just been (or possibly still am) there. Going for what I really wanted in life was such a huge step for me. It continues to challenge and scare me daily. I’m constantly second-guessing myself, wondering if I should have just accepted an office job somewhere and kept my love of photography as a mere hobby. Hearing about others, especially other women who are on similar journeys always tugs at my heartstrings, gently reminding me that I’m doing the right thing. Despite the late nights, missed workouts, and endless hours of laboring over tiny details, I’m following my heart and doing what I truly love.

And then, she sang.

Her voice sent me walking somewhere else. Far away from the car that I was in and the road that I was driving on. I ended up sitting in the grocery store parking lot for the interview’s duration, completely mesmerized. I wrote her name down on a piece of scratch paper and promised myself that I would get her CD someday.

Fast forward a few months and I’m exchanging e-mails with a local venue and the tone of the e-mails becomes a bit more personal. The woman whom I’m in communication with mentions that she is a singer/songwriter and is looking for portraits for her upcoming tour. She sends me her website, I check it out….and guess what? It’s her! The woman who’s every word I hung onto that day in my car listening to KUSP! Coincidence?

Her name is Amanda West and she is unbelievable. Here are a few shots from her portrait session.

We had originally planned on a session close to the beach, but the fog was pushing us inland. As per Amanda’s suggestion, we headed to Pogonip, which turned out to be the most amazing location. We waited around for the light to get really good while played her guitar and sang. Not a bad deal, huh?

Of course I had to experiment a little because that’s just what I do…

One of my favorites of the day:

Amanda goes on tour soon and she needed some head shots for the press.

Another favorite of mine:

I love working with artists as there is always this amazing balance of their own vision and complete trust in my artistic process behind the camera. This shot was her idea .

And then something really cool happened. After an hour or so of shooting, the sun was finally in the perfect spot, sitting on the top of the hills and offering the most delicious light. I turned to Amanda and told her to play. As she played her magnificent music, the sun slowly slipped behind the mountain, a photographer’s dream come true. I didn’t say a word, but just trusted her to do her thing while I did mine. After it was over, I said:”That was the magic moment. Did you feel it?” She smiled and replied “yes”.

Here’s that magic moment:

Amanda, thank you for this amazing opportunity. I loved everything about your portrait session. You are an amazing talent who’s radiance shines through, be it music or imagery. All the best and many blessings to you on your tour and in your travels, my friend.

Do yourself a favor and check out Amanda’s website. Here you may purchase her gorgeous CD entitled A Way to the Water see her tour schedule, and learn more about this up-and-coming young talent.

Oh yes, one more thing…I’d like to dedicate this blog post to my amazing friend Katie who is getting ready to soar, I can just feel it!

And the winners are…

We finally picked the $25 iTunes gift card winners!

I actually included both the wedding post and the contest post comments in the drawing since I reread the contest details and realized that I wasn’t completely clear as to where comments should be left. I printed all of the entries, cut them, and placed them in a hat. My little guy insisted on doing the honors which was a relief since some family members and close friends had left comments and I felt funny about being the one to draw names. I can assure you, however, that he didn’t cheat..he’s only four and he can’t read yet!

Winner #1 is:

Jenn (mom to Aiden and Oliver) I’m so honored that Jenn is a a faithful blog reader, so this is incredibly well-deserved!

And Winner #2 is:

My dear friend, the one and only Lisa Gopman! What can I say about Lisa? She makes me laugh harder than anyone else on this earth and I’m thrilled that she is a winner. If you want to chuckle with Lisa, CLICK HERE.

Congrats, you two! I can’t think of two more deserving winners. Your cards will arrive via e-mail shortly.

I’m looking forward to doing more fun contests in the future.

And, because I’m incapable of posting without photos, here are a few fun ones…

My four year-old’s birthday cake. What can I say? He wanted a dump truck cake. I stayed up until the wee hours piecing it all together and later added orange cones as well. I was feeling so grateful that I had a reason to make something so ridiculous. (I know, this photo completely sucks. Don’t judge though, I grabbed it with someone else’s point and shoot at the last second. Promise.)

Speaking of other cameras, sometimes I leave my digital camera and fancy lenses behind and grab my Holga instead. I love Holgas, they are splendidly imperfect and the images always make me smile.

Here is my husband in SF showing off what could possibly be the ugliest shoe ever made.

And my baby. He humors me when I have a camera in my hand.

Thanks as always for checking in. More portrait sessions on the way…

Loving Jesh De Rox’s textures…

Wow, a seriously crazy week…my baby turned four, family in town visiting, a giant dump truck birthday cake, and lots of fun shoots coming up. I love this time of year. I’ll be announcing the winner of the iTunes gift cards over the weekend. It’s late, I know, but I promised the little guy that he could pull the names out of the hat…so please pass on the good word that the drawing isn’t until this weekend and there is still time to enter…just leave a comment on the post below and enter yourself to win! I’ve already had a few requests, so I’ll be blogging the birthday cake this weekend as well.

In the meantime, I’m still loving Jesh De Rox’s Fine Art Textures. I highly recommend these to all photographers. I also cannot say enough about making your own textures, which has been an obsession of mine lately (more on that later). Below are a few fun ones of wildflower picking in Ohio this summer. (Note to photographers: I used Jesh De Rox’s “afternoon” in hard light @ about 60% opacity)

My Godsister’s beautiful daughters. We miss them so much.