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: January 2012

Alyssa & Collin (Italy wedding photography; Tuscany wedding photography; Florence, Italy wedding photography)

There are people in our lives whose presence remains strong long after they leave us.

It is difficult to even write about Alyssa and Collin’s Tuscany wedding as the experience was bigger than this page, than any image I could ever make. We were all at the Vicchiomaggio, the castle in Greve, Italy where Leonardo Da Vinci began painting the Mona Lisa. The castle itself dates back to the 1400s and was known during the Middle Ages as a defender of Florence during its battles with Siena. There were spirits buzzing about, this was certain. In Greek culture (and maybe Italian too?) rain on a wedding day is a good omen. “Kathari Arxi” my Grandmother used to say. “Clean Start”. We forewent pre-wedding portraits due to the unbearable heat and humidity. The temperatures in the church were easily in the mid 90s. Our cousin Dean was fanning Alyssa and Collin as they stood at the altar sweating. Then all of a sudden it came. Drizzle, wind, showers, rain, thunder, lightning, darkness. There was a raging storm outside the tiny chapel and I couldn’t help but worry about who would spot me with an umbrella on the way back to the castle.

And then something happened.

Seconds before the processional began, the rain went away. The exact moment that Alyssa and Collin stepped out of the church the sky lit up. Moments later the sun broke out in a way a photograph could never explain. You had to be there to feel it. In the garden outside of the church the ground was barely wet. If I hadn’t seen it myself I never would’ve believed that a lightning storm had taken place minutes beforehand.

Everyone there knew who was responsible.

There are places on earth where the light is nice, there are places on earth where the light is beautiful, and there are places on earth where the light will bring you to your knees.

There are people in our lives who love us, there are people in our lives who love us deeply, and there are people in our lives who love us with the power to open up the sky, to start and end lightning storms.

Alyssa and Collin, on June 30th 2011 in Greve, Italy, a lightning storm was orchestrated for the two of you. Everything was washed clean.

I love you both.


A heartfelt Gratzi to the following wonderful people and places:

Ann and Elizabeth of Original Tuscan Wedding for their wedding planning perfection. They pretty much did it all…

Gino and Castello Verrazzano for an unforgettable evening on the eve of the wedding.

Castello Vicchiomaggio, our beautiful home for three days…we’ll never forget you.

Violamalva for the unbelievably gorgeous flowers.

Firenze Classica for the lovely music. It was the real deal.

Private Tuscany Tours: They got us everywhere we needed to be in style.

Alyssa and Collin for your beautiful, shining spirits and for entrusting me to capture such a precious day in your lives. It was the greatest honor to have been there.

Lee and Mary Ann for believing that having us there was worth it all…we are forever grateful for your kindness, generosity, and love.

Featured in Hello!Lucky blog

I was so honored to see that one of my images of this beautiful family was featured on Hello!Lucky’s beautiful blog. I love their stationary and have been following them for awhile.

Mom uses Hello!Lucky for her family’s holiday cards and their holiday card was featured in a post before Christmas. I can’t really take much credit, though…these little guys are so adorable that who wouldn’t want to feature an image of them? Check out the blog post HERE.

Speaking of holiday cards…I realized that I never posted a few sweet holiday images from a fun event back in December. My brilliant friend Marina helped me put the frames together and the images turned out so sweet. I especially love the willow branches.

Holidays are over, yes I do know this. Of course our tree is still up. Moving on…

family portraits and gettin’ my groove back

I’m just gonna come out and say it…this year was a difficult one. I tried putting on my superwoman cape and jumping back into work with an 8 month old, but it was (duh) harder than I had hoped that it would be. I loved picking up the camera again, it felt good. After awhile it even felt great. Someone once said that every image that a photographer captures is a self portrait and after having my second baby I believe this more than ever. I am a different person now than I was before I had him. Just as I’m still noticing ways that I am different, I’m continuing to observe differences in my photography. It is all an amazing mystery to me…the way that a change within my head and heart is reflected within everything that I produce. I’ll admit to a little bit of stumbling, sort of like getting back on skis after a long hiatus…wobbly legs, a few (or maybe lots of) crashes, and finally slowing down the pace to get back into the groove. It was a lot like that.

While figuring all of this out, I neglected to post more than a few portrait sessions and weddings. Here are a just a few of my favorites from some sessions that never made it as far as the blog:

Thank you, beautiful people. I loved every minute of every session with you. Love and joy to you all in 2012!

goodbye 2011

It has been a big year. So big that my blogging was pretty weak. One of my goals is to improve upon this in 2012. All in all 2011 was awesome.

a quick synopsis:

Our baby learned to sit up, roll over, crawl, walk, run a little, kiss, eat real food, and even talk a tiny bit.

Our big boy became an amazing big brother…and started first grade.

Pat and I became Godparents.

I shot some unbelievable weddings.

I signed up for a half marathon but didn’t run it…maybe this year.

I should’ve slept more.

We struggled to find enough time.


We made a lot of soup…well, Pat made a lot of soup.

We probably visited the pumpkin patch 10 times during the month of October.

I watched one of my best friends get married. It was so beautiful.

Annie and G-bird came for a visit…we all fell in love.

We went kiwi picking for the first time.

Tahoe was beautiful.

Ohio, as always, was the highpoint. We even saw a little snow (see image below)

YiaYia came to visit three times this year…we’re already counting the days until until her next visit.

Our big guy made an apple pie for Thanksgiving dinner.

I ran a 10k on Mothers day.

The big guy and I collected a jar full of seaglass in Italy. If he gives you a piece it means that he loves you. A lot.

We got our Christmas tree in early December and it is still up…probably will be until the end of January. It’s just too beautiful at night with all the lights on to take down just yet.

I met and photographed some sweet and wonderful families.

I thought a lot about how I have exactly what I need.

I felt a lot of gratitude.

I really love it here.

Happy New Year to you! Thanks for being here. xo