Painted Wood Turtle (photo by Cheryl Harleston)
I love it when I’ve known someone a while and suddenly they pop up with a hidden talent. This happened one evening when long-time Yelapa resident Cheryl Harleston stepped up to the microphone at the Yelapa Oasis restaurant and began to sing. Her soulful voice invoked the spirit of flamenco–a genre of music that I love.
Cheryl has surprised me again, now revealing herself as a talented photographer of Yelapa’s natural world: the hummingbirds, treehoppers, caterpillars, butterflies, iguanas, frogs and hawks that make Yelapa special. All are portrayed in her new book Yelapa Encounters. My first journey through its pages left me feeling deep peace and wonderment. Each colorful and detailed image is like a meditation: A silkworm nibbles a leaf, two Orange-fronted parakeets touch beaks, a Shovel-headed tree frog seems to almost smile into the camera. Her portrait-style approach treats each creature as an individual–a soul even –and not as part of a mass or swarm. This approach helps the viewer see even the tiniest insect as the miracle that it is.
One can only imagine the patience involved in getting these perfect shots. Cheryl writes in her book:
To be able to relate appropriately to any animal, one must be in their same ‘here and now’ state of consciousness. To encounter a wild creature that is aware of our presence, that looks straight back at us in acknowledgement, and still serenely allows to be photographed is, to me, the ultimate challenge, the most genuine relationship, the highest honor.
She did not come by this patience easily. In 2014, Cheryl came down with an illness that required her to surrender her role as the owner of the popular Yelapa Oasis restaurant. She coped with this forced slow-down by taking patient walks around her property to harness the healing energy that Yelapa is famous for.
“It was during those walks that I started photographing the fauna around me, and I truly believe those connections and encounters were instrumental in my recovery.” Cheryl explains.
Cheryl’s photography isn’t just incredible art, but has now become part of a larger project. She is currently collaborating with the National Commission for Biodiversity in Mexico and its scientists, keeping records of all the fauna in Yelapa.
To purchase her book click HERE
For information about Deep Travel workshops, including our upcoming trips to Yelapa, click HERE.