Moving purposefully around the garden store at Leafsong Family Farm in Belmont, the photographer stretched and bent, gazed at her camera’s display screen and carefully positioned items in the glowing afternoon light.
She was aiming to capture perfect shots of soaps and other goods she and her family sell at their farm store. The photos will join ones of elegant bouquets, sun-dappled gardens and lush plants on the business website.
“I love doing the photographs,” Tuala Leafsong said.
Leafsong started with a point-and-shoot camera just five years ago but is now turning her creative eye toward professional work as a wedding and portrait photographer — and she’s only 16. The self-taught and home-schooled teen has gotten real-world experience taking photos for her family’s farm website. Now, she has also expanded her work, shooting her first wedding earlier this month.
“I love just capturing people as they are,” she said. “Everyone’s unique, and their love is unique. I think it’s very important to capture that.”
Despite Leafsong’s youth, she’s pretty sure she knows what she wants to do with her life. That likely has something to do with where she lives and how she is growing up — as an integral part of Leafsong Family Farm in Belmont. The family-owned farm, plant nursery and garden store is run by her mom, Stacy Leafsong, her younger brother, Robear Leafsong, and her. It’s 89 acres of fields, forest and marshland, and it’s a place that Tuala Leafsong loves with all her heart.
“The farm is definitely a very special place,” she said. “Because I’m so attached to the farm, I don’t really see myself ever leaving … My goal is to be part time on the farm and part time as a wedding photographer. That’s my ultimate goal.”
When she was 11, she shot photos of her family and their animals on the farm with her first camera. Now 16, she’s capturing images of the farm and beyond with her Canon EOS R, a mirrorless, digital professional-level camera.
Her colorful photos spotlight the profusion of flowers, shrubs, trees and other plants on the farm. They also showcase moments of farm life that stood out to her: mist-covered fields, her mother’s hands cradling an armful of baby birds, a bowl piled with technicolor-vivid heirloom tomatoes, the abundant gardens, peacefully grazing sheep and a portrait of one of the family’s iridescent blue peacocks.
Clockwise from left: Tuala Leafsong had developed a passion for photography on her family farm; Growing up around the beautiful flowers and scenery at Leafsong Family Farm helped spark Tuala Leafsong’s passion for photography. Her mother, Stacy Leafsong, works on the farm; Tuala uses her Canon EOS R mirrorless digital camera to photograph flowers and products for their website and social media pages. Credit: Linda Coan O’Kresik / BDN
Taken together, they paint a picture of a working farm where beauty is never an afterthought.
“She’s got a great eye and a great vision,” Stacy Leafsong, an artist and organic farmer, said of her daughter. “I think by her growing up in this whole family business, she gets it. I think she’s really been immersed in growing up with that aesthetic, with these plants and flowers.”
Last summer, Tuala Leafsong and her mom were doing a model shoot for a wedding bouquet and something clicked for the teen.
“I thought, ‘Oh wait, I could do this,’” she said. “Over the winter, I just worked more and more towards that.”
She taught herself more about photography, practiced developing her personal style and dove into websites and podcasts made by professional photographers. She also started her own business, Tuala R. Leafsong Photography, through which she offers senior photographs, portraits, wedding packages, pet portraits and commercial photography.
And this spring, an opportunity arose when Jenna and Erik Klausmeyer of Searsmont planned their wedding. They knew Tuala Leafsong through the Leafsong Family Farm, and hired her to co-shoot the wedding with another photographer.
“It was the first wedding I’ve shot, and it was amazing,” Tuala Leafsong said.
Jenna Klausmeyer, who has so far seen just a few of the photos that Tuala Leafsong took of her wedding, said that one in particular caught her eye. It’s a picture of her daughter, 9-year-old Willa Hamel, with a crown of flowers on her head and a mischievous smile on her face.
“That one is perfect. It really captured her spirit,” Klausmeyer said. “It took my breath away.”
She said that Tuala Leafsong seemed older than her years when she was at work.
“I could tell she was really passionate about this,” Klausmeyer said. “She was very focused. She is a shy person, but she’s not so shy that it prevented her from going up to someone with a camera. She was very smiley, friendly and easy-going.”
Tuala Leafsong, who has been busy editing some of the 1,500 or so photos she took at the wedding, was happy to have the chance to try her hand at what she wants to be her life’s work — and to capture so many moments from a special day.
“I love the way photographs keep memories so long,” she said. “There’s a power in that.”