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!

Category Archives: musings on my life

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

it’s that time again…

Every year, our otherwise healthy household falls off the wagon. Big time. Yes, those would be Samoas you see on my son’s eyes. Pat says that they’re not that great and that I’d pass them by in the grocery store without batting an eye if they were available all year long. I beg to differ, I think. Either way, I’m grateful that they only rear their ugly heads once a year.

I’m thinking a vegetable cleanse may be in our imminent future…

layin’ low…

Today marks one month that we’ve been back from Ohio but it feels more like one week. We’re enjoying being back and getting back into our routines again. I’ve been finding great pleasure in slowly crossing things off of my list but not killing myself to do so. Everyone has been so patient, I’m incredibly grateful. One foot in front of the other is my motto these days…which turns out to be a good motto as we’ve really been enjoying so much lately. Although I’m definitely a warm weather & sunshine girl, I have to admit that I’ve been loving these rainy days. Today we snuggled up in bed in the middle of the afternoon and read a few chapters from Little House in the Big Woods. I could have easily finished the book, but he wanted to go outside and play in the rain. I made it out to the stoop but stopped when the hail started…and grabbed the camera which I hadn’t used in over a month.

The hail was pretty cool but it hurt his hands, he said.

random thoughts

So, we got a tree on December 1st. It felt early, but he insisted…the virgo in the family is keeping us on point…

I’m seriously getting into the spirit here now that the tree is up. We made a Gingerbread house today and I intentionally chose the nastiest candy available so that my child would not be the slightest bit tempted. It worked. He still has no idea that those sketchy little Peeps snowmen are actually edible.

I’ve also been too busy to blog, I think. In the 3 years that I’ve been in business, I’ve never had so much work. I am grateful to say the least. I even had to turn some business away, which is a first for me. It made me feel sad, but a little happy too.

Have you ever cried in the scalding hot shower just because it felt good to do so? I tried it the other night and highly recommend it to everyone.

I’m done with my 2009 wedding season, it was a good one. Again, I’m so grateful.

My 5 year old has the best questions…a couple that come to mind: “Does Santa Claus ever die?” and “Mama, how exactly do blimps land?” Any help answering these would be greatly appreciated.

It has been over 6 years since I have left the country and I seriously have the itch…time to renew the passport.

I send you much comfort and joy this weekend…


a few things that I’m thankful for, in no particular order…

my running shoes, although I have been neglecting them lately

green tea, chocolate, swiss chard, and Sierra Nevada Porter mustard

Canon lenses

central heating and plumbing…seriously.

These hair products

This etsy shop

the fact that I live in Santa Cruz

the fact that I was raised in Ohio

Ikaria, Greece

my health

the pumpkin pie that is baking right now and the way that it smells

The Forest of Nicene Marks

my many, many relatives

old photos



our garden

sleeping in



mountain bikes

this blog


This video

tide pools


basset hounds

and these two, of course…

I could go on and on, but you get the idea. There is so much, everywhere, every day, that I pass by and forget to notice.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you.

apples and pink cowboy boots…

I’m having one of those days, I’m afraid….too much work, not enough play, and definitely not nearly enough time to do it all.

So, I am escaping…transporting myself back to last week’s trip to the best apple orchard ever, Swanton Pacific Ranch in Davenport. I love that the trees are tiny, perfect for the wee ones to pick themselves. We caught the tail end of the crop, and the golden leaves sparkled as we filled our bags. It was warm, sweet, and wonderful. I didn’t want to leave. I love the last glimpses of warmth that October brings…I miss her already.

Plus…with pink cowboy boots, how could we go wrong?







I wish you a happy escape today, even if it is simply the memory of a warm day.

xo, j


Yesterday was my second consecutive Sunday of not turning my computer on. So hard to do with deadlines looming, clients waiting, and ideas, thoughts, colors, and dreams floating around in my head…but, I did it and it was magical I tell you. This is my new creed, a day unplugged with my family and loved ones receiving my undivided attention…with the exception of an hour or so alone on the running trails or maybe in yoga class. Other than that, I get to enjoy the precious things.

We had the most glorious afternoon visiting friends in their new home. We played with trucks, hung out on the lawn, and ate a yummy dinner in their gorgeous fruit tree-filled backyard. As I watched the sun dip down, I had to pull out my camera and snap a few quick ones of the delicious light. Most are of my tree-climbing almost-5-year-old which I’ll save for Yia-Yia…but I did grab a shot of my favorite tree in the yard. I’m trying to figure out why I’ve gone 36 years without tasting these little gems. Everyone else said that they were too sour, but I found them perfect and mouth-watering. How lucky am I to be able to taste my very first ones right off of the tree?


I send you love right off of the tree today…


We had lilac bushes in our yard where I grew up in Ohio. They arrived in May, an enormous sea of purple and white. The first true sign of summer. They smelled like heaven. My mother would cut some off and wrap the stems in wet paper towels, then aluminum foil and send me on my way to school. My teachers always loved them. Especially Ms. Evans, my Kindergarten teacher. She loved them so much that mom kept sending me to school with more for her. She would put them in an old dusty vase, smile, and pat me on the head. Ms. Evans wasn’t a particularly kind teacher. She put poor Michael H. in a cardboard box and called it his “office”. Apparently, he wasn’t being attentive enough. He was supposed to sit in his “office” all day long where he couldn’t see a thing. Sounds like a great way to encourage attentiveness, amongst other things…

I shudder at the thought of my baby having a Ms. Evans. Pat says that things are different these days, that Ms. Evans wouldn’t last a day in school (let alone Kindergarten) today. All I know is that I have two memories of Kindergarten…lilacs and Michael H’s cardboard box.

The lilac memories are lovely ones, though. I can still picture my mom in the warm foggy morning air, cutting them for my teachers. It meant that school would soon be over and that she would be all mine for three whole months. I would proudly step onto the school bus with the fragrance of heaven encircling me.

A few months ago I stopped into Susi’s Flowers to grab some fresh cut flowers for a dear friend who was in the hospital. I couldn’t believe my nose…lilacs. You don’t normally see them in California, not like the ones in the Midwest anyway. They’re smaller, less intense, less amazing here. Susi said that in order to grow good lilacs, a cold snap is needed. That would explain the Ohio part. She said that hers are from a very old bush, that the newer bushes just aren’t the same. I believe her, I hadn’t seen or smelled a decent lilac since I moved to California almost 15 years ago…until that day.

I drove to the hospital with the bouquet on the passengers seat and a flood of memories in my head. I traveled back to Kindergarten and thought about the full circle that I’ve come. Our baby starts Kindergarten this fall. I’m not quite sure where the years have gone.

I went back to Susi’s the other day for some gorgeous cut flowers of my own. No lilacs, though (the season is over here in Santa Cruz). It’s a gorgeous shop, located in Rancho Del Mar in Aptos, a few doors down from Safeway. Do stop by and check it out the next time you’re looking for unbelievably beautiful flowers. She does weddings and events as well and by the looks of what was being created in the shop when I stopped in, her arrangements are some of the most stunning I’ve ever seen. Not to mention that Susi and the other woman working there were amazingly sweet and helpful. I know that I’ll be stopping by again soon…and telling my brides about her as well.

Oh, and guess what was in full bloom on our recent trip to the Sierras ?


they smelled like heaven…

Seriously, why do we bother?

I had another one of those “why do we bother buying toys?” moments today.







1 laundry hamper + a pile of blankets = over an hour of bliss. The best part is that he actually requested photos, which doesn’t happen very often these days!

A wonderful weekend to you! xxoo

Peace, Love, Happiness, & Watermelon


A few years ago, I wanted to become a photographer so badly that it hurt. I had taken every single photography class at the local junior college (some twice) and was mid way through my second semester of Alternative Photographic Processes. Knee deep in Polaroid Transfers and fix, I was wondering what I would do next. With no more photography classes to take, I figured that it was time to do something about this dream of mine, but I had no idea where to start. That, and I was terrified of failing. At the time, I was working at a gym and hating every minute of it, but putting on a happy face and doing my best.

One day, the gym manager called me into her office. Her face looked tired. She explained to me that they were undergoing some re-structuring and that my job was being eliminated. My responsibilities would now fall under someone else’s job description. As I sat watching her mouth move I felt a surreal mixture of elation and fear. I knew that it was time to move on, but was I was petrified of what came next. I had no idea what gifts were in store for me.

Two months later I learned that I was pregnant. During my pregnancy, I had my first official show at our friends’ Yoga Studio. I sold four small pieces and was over-the-moon. When my baby was three months old, I had my second and third shows. I sold a bunch of black and white photographs to the set designer of CSI Miami. I had never even heard of the show since we don’t have a TV, but the notion that my work may have possibly gotten a snippet of airtime on national TV was a thrill. Meanwhile, I was spending my days with my Pentax K1000 (don’t laugh, it’s still one of my all-time favorite cameras) and my baby boy. I’d rip through 3 rolls of film at the park, another one in the tub, and two more at the beach during sunset. I finally had an excuse to put all of those photography classes to practical use.

My husband, who has always had an open heart to the possibilities of a photography career, bought me my first digital SLR. Slowly thereafter, thanks to some great friends and word of mouth, I started dabbling in wedding photography and fell in love. 2 years later, I made the jump from hobby photographer to pro and am finally doing what I’ve always dreamed of. My son and I sometimes ride by the gym on our way home from the beach. The wind blows through our hair and I smile every time as my heart boils over with gratitude…for the fact that I am not stuck in a miserable job anymore, for the amazing intervention that took place there several years ago, for the fact that I’m free.

This is, of course, a brief synopsis of the early highlights. I didn’t include the many tears, the countless all-nighters spent editing and trying to learn Photoshop, the many moments of hating my work and wondering why on earth I thought I could do this, and the hundreds of beans and rice evenings while we saved for more camera equipment…but you get the idea, so far it has been well worth every low point.

On Wednesday, my son and I drove up to Marin to do a summer photo shoot for Peek…Aren’t You Curious. I got to hang out with my favorite person all day, meet up with some great people in the afternoon, and (are you kidding me?) photograph kids playing on the beach and eating watermelon. I’ve said it before on this blog…but sometimes I wish someone would pinch me. I’m bursting with gratitude for this brand new career of mine and feeling a lot like N, the beautiful girl in the photo above, savoring, relishing, and enjoying every sweet bite!

More images from the shoot coming soon…