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!

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.


12 responses to “Alyssa & Collin (Italy wedding photography; Tuscany wedding photography; Florence, Italy wedding photography)

  1. Jody Konstand January 23, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    My dearest Jo,
    Your photography is absolutely stunning! Not only did you capture the magic of those wonderful days but you have created a visual memory of the love and the sense of family that bound all of us together … a family of the heart … gathered to share the joy of Lys and Collin’s wedding.
    Your words opening this blog brought me to tears. What a gift you have! Thank you for sharing it with all of us.

  2. Jo Ann Manolis Photography January 24, 2012 at 1:45 pm

    Oh, Jody…you made my day, week, month with these sweet words. It is so true, a family of the heart. I send you and Bob and all the kids and grandkids much love! xoxo, Jo

  3. Cathy Crawley January 26, 2012 at 5:32 am

    Amazing amazing amazing! This post brings back so many fond memories of my trip to Tuscany last year. Sigh. Great details, you tell the story so well.

  4. elizabeth & ann February 4, 2013 at 4:33 am

    You are an amazing photographer! still love looking through these beautiful images you captured! Brava!! from Elizabeth & Ann / ORIGINAL TUSCAN WEDDING

    • jo February 9, 2013 at 4:20 pm

      Elizabeth and Ann, YOU are both amazing. Thank you for such a wonderful experience. I just know that I’ll get to see you both again! Much Love, Jo

  5. Lori Spitzer February 10, 2013 at 3:51 pm

    Attending Collin and Alyssa’s wedding in Italy was beautiful, and an extraordinary experience we will always carry with us. Traveling on to Greece and spending time with Alyssa’s family was icing on the cake. We are grateful to have been part of this celebration. Kevin & Lori Spitzer

    • jo February 11, 2013 at 10:36 pm

      Kevin and Lori, it was wonderful meeting you both and yous son as well. We are also so grateful to have been there, it was extraordinary for sure! Much Love, Jo

  6. Irene Romsos February 10, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Jo – great pictures. I feel like I am back in beautiful Italy with all your lovely pictures.
    Good looking bride and groom.

    • jo February 11, 2013 at 10:38 pm

      Hi Aunt Irene, We sure do miss you a lot! I’m sure that you spent plenty of time in Italy in your years with the airlines. It is indeed beautiful. We hope to get to see you soon! Sending much Love, Jo

  7. Mary Ann Deuri Plakas February 10, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    Jo, I cannot express in words how I feel every single time I look at the pictures you took while we all celebrated Alyssa and Collin’s wedding. You have captured something beautiful and magical that makes my heart smile. This chapter in our lives is so precious and only someone with the love that you have for us could have captured it the way you did. Grazie mielle!

  8. jo February 11, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    Mary Ann, You are right. I have an enormous amount of love for you, Lee, and each of your children (and children in-laws). You guys mean the world to our family and we hold each one of you so very close in our hearts. It meant the world to me to be able to do this for you guys. xoxo, JoJo

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