10/17/2017 15:12 EDT

The Stories Behind the Stunning Photos in Oprah's New Book

The book's photographer opens up about shooting various scenes on Oprah's property.

Oprah Winfrey says she feels a connection to All that is greater than herself most deeply when she is at her home in Santa Barbara, surrounded by nature.  For Oprah, “there is nothing more calming” than time spent among the ever-changing canopy of leaves, grass and wildlife that flourish in her backyard. In moments of uncertainty, she believes “just focusing on the stillness of a tree or the intricacy of a bloom” can center her in “the wholeness of all things.”

In creating her new book, The Wisdom of Sundays, Oprah celebrates the life-changing insights and Aha! moments shared with her by some of the world’s most highly-regarded thought leaders who have appeared on her three-time Emmy winning show, “Super Soul Sunday.” The book is also a celebration of nature. It features breathtaking photographs designed to help the reader delight in the world around us.  

To honor the release of The Wisdom of Sundays, HuffPost has an exclusive article and slideshow by Melissa Gidney Daly, the photographer hand-picked by Oprah to capture the most intimate and treasured locations on her property and favorites throughout the world. 

Prior to finding out that I had been selected to photograph The Wisdom of Sundays, my only experience with Oprah was watching her show. Growing up, five days a week at 4 p.m., Oprah filled our home with stories that inspired us, educated us and, ultimately, changed us. Over time, I came to realize that Oprah’s calling is so much more than just to do a show to entertain people ― that she was using her power to increase the consciousness of the entire world. So, I was humbled to learn that my photographs were going to be featured in her new book. 

Once the news sunk in, I admit I started to feel a little nervous: How could my images possibly pair up with the powerful and wise words of the incredible teachers and visionaries featured in the book, including Oprah herself? But as I read the introduction where Oprah talks of the awe-inspiring spiritual power of nature, I really connected to the idea that my photographs could represent both “the majestic abundance and unseen details” (as Oprah says) we often overlook. With photography, and all aspects of my life, I am continually trying to strip away, rid distraction and let things breathe. 

Every photograph in the book was selected to help the reader feel something.

I had a moment while shooting that was quite profound for me. I stood among The Twelve Apostles, an area on the property with 12 magnificent oak trees, and I realized that everything in my life had led me to that moment. Every place I’ve traveled, every photo I’ve taken, every person I’ve met. It occurred to me that literally every decision I’ve made had brought me to this sacred spot. 

I was filled with so much gratitude for every experience that brought me to that place. As Oprah would say, it was an Aha moment for me, and I felt so connected… to All. 

The Wisdom of Sundays features photographs from Oprah’s home, as well as some from my travels around the world. Every photograph in the book was selected to help the reader feel something. I’m always asking people, “Yes, but how did it make you feel?” That, above all else, is the true gauge for me. I want my images to stir something in you. Maybe it’s a sense of calm. Or a renewed appreciation for things often overlooked. Or maybe, just maybe, it inspires something in you to take steps toward your own true expression.

Here are a few pictures from The Wisdom of Sundays, accompanied by my commentary: 

  • Page 32: Stone Path on Oprah's Property
    Melissa Gidney Daly
    This is one of the many stone pathways that meander through Oprah’s property. Each path is unique in where it leads you and the feeling it evokes. Here, the dappled sunlight warms the ground covered in moss and fallen oak leaves.
  • Page 47: Sculpture on Oprah's Property
    Melissa Gidney Daly
    This sculpture, Grupo de quatro mujeres de pie, by Fransisco Zuniga stopped me in my tracks. Placed in a corner of the property, the women gather beneath large eucalyptus, palms and pine trees. The four peasant women symbolize the different stages of life: adolescence, pregnancy, middle age and old age. Zuniga brings bronze to life, as the women stand proudly and powerfully.
  • Page 61: Shades of Green
    Melissa Gidney Daly
    There are a million shades of greens throughout Oprah’s property, including the vibrant yellow greens only found in the early spring, and deeper brown greens on the needles of the established redwoods. I loved the deep shade of green with hues of blue on these broad leaves, which filled an entire gully, gently swaying in the breeze. Focusing the photograph on a few leaves allows you to appreciate the beautiful patterns that are showcased so exquisitely.
  • Page 13: Oprah's Oak Trees
    Melissa Gidney Daly
    As I was finishing up my time at The Promised Land [Oprah's property], the last of the day’s light managed to find one final pocket to shine through, gently illuminating the oak trees and ivy ground cover. I loved the contrast of the warm light streaming in through the dark branches as the sun said its goodbyes for the day. 
  • Page 28: Beauty of Rain
    Melissa Gidney Daly
    I lived in Vancouver for many years, so I am used to a lot of rain. But I learned to appreciate the beauty of that rain, even on a cold, wet winter day like this one. There is so much to be found in a barren bush in its dormant winter state decorated with dancing droplets.
  • Page 124: Rock Close-Up
    Melissa Gidney Daly
    This is a close-up of a massive rock that sits on a beach just north of Santa Barbara. From afar, it appears strong and resilient against the onslaught of elements, and it isn’t until you are right next to it, that you notice the fragile state it is in with its deep fissures and heavily weathered surface.
  • Page 209: Ta Prohm in Cambodia
    Melissa Gidney Daly
    When my family and I were traveling in Cambodia, we decided to bypass the main complex at Angkor Wat, where all the tourists go for the sunrise. We went instead to Ta Prohm, which is shrouded in dense jungle. The temple looks as if it is being protected by the tall trees that soar into the sky, their roots cradling the ancient carved stones. Experiencing this incredible temple on our own is one of my most treasured memories.  

The Wisdom of Sundays is available now. Order your copy today.

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