2016 – The best photos of the year


When David Bowie died, I decided to scan one of my shots of him that I had taken in 1981 when he showed up at The Bottom Line in Manhattan to see The Uncle Floyd Show, which I shot for. As Bowie fans know, he, John Lennon and others in that crowd liked the UFS and that Bowie wrote a song about it (“Slip Away”).

The scan came out incredibly weird. There was no hint of a person or face – just odd geometric shapes. This pic shows the original (small inset) and the outcome, which I’m assuming is Bowie’s form in the afterlife.



By the time Prince died, I had some familiarity with the weirdness process and tried it out on him. I found success with very few images. Forget faces – no semblance of facial features will show up. However, in certain photos, some distinguishable characteristics or traits survive, such as this one from 1982. It helps to have the original beside it, but then you kinda sorta think you could have made out that it was Prince, even if you didn’t look at the original (right?).

So – have I discovered a new art form?




Steeple Gets a Makeover

The gorgeous white steeple of the First Presbyterian Church of Hackensack has been my next-door neighbor – but not at ground level, just 7 floors up – for 3 decades and has been the subject of countless pictures I’ve taken over that period.

It had its last makeover in 1991 and was overdue for another. That happened this year from October to December and – being its only 7th-floor neighbor – I felt compelled to document it.

I won’t bore you with all the pics………….I’ll just bore you with a few.

I first noticed two men way up high on a picker doing some scraping. I didn’t think they would notice me at all, but after uploading my pix to the computer, I now know better (second pic).

In the third pic, they appear to be taking a dance break.

The rest of the pix show some progress. The job wasn’t finished when I took the last pic, but the steeple looked pretty good by then.










Here are two of those old windows:























The Bergen County Zoo’s Big Birds

Skipping the usual zoo animals brought me to some large birds. The biggest of the bunch was this condor that had a wingspan that’s longer than my sofa (but not as good-looking)…………..I take that back: actually, the wingspan was very good-looking compared to its face. I HAD to take closeups of that…………who would believe me if I didn’t have photographic proof?




On to a smaller and MUCH better-looking bird:

I’ve always wanted to get some really good closeup shots of bald eagles in the wild, but all I’ve gotten so far were a shot or two from pretty far away. When I found out that the Bergen County Zoo – about 4 miles away – had 3 of them on display, I headed on over.

Technically, it’s “cheating” to photograph them in captivity, but this was too good to pass up (if only one had landed on my A/C multiple times like Hammy did…………).

Anyway………..the first shot shows the raptor with and without its protective nictitating eye membrane. I really wanted to get a shot head-on, but the enclosure wasn’t set up for that.

As I left the display area and got on a normal pathway, I noticed that I could see the eagle facing me directly through a locked gate that was about 10 feet behind the pathway’s wooden fence. It would have been a simple matter to walk right up to the gate and shoot through it completely unobstructed, but I was told in no uncertain terms that I could not do that.

I’m gonna have to go back there and talk to somebody about that. There’s something wrong with photographing the symbol of our nation’s freedom sitting behind a locked gate.

These 3 images look very un-American to me.

Let’s organize a protest! Yeah!





Remember the pix in the 1992 post about a daytime lightning strike on a chimney in my building that was only a few feet from where I was sitting in my apartment? I mentioned that it happened again in 2016. Here it is.

This corner faces the front of the building. The back wall (toward the right) is in my apartment, one floor down and just inside my front door (no damage to my apartment). I was sitting at my computer. It wasn’t that loud this time, but I felt a strong THUMP in my feet through the floor. It was as if someone in the apartment below me dropped a lead sofa.



I noticed that the bricks said “HB Co” on them. I looked it up online and found that it stood for “Hackensack Brick Company”, which was located in………….Little Ferry, NJ (ignore what the final photo says).


Little Ferry – just south of Hackensack – had vast clay pits that were perfect for brick-making. There were many brick companies in Little Ferry in the 1800s and one of them changed its name to Hackensack Brick Company around 1909. My building was constructed in 1928, so it all fits.



Next to that chimney is an old skylight for the elevator room. The exposed top of the skylight is mostly translucent glass – probably also from 1928. Some of the panels didn’t survive the lightning strike.

This is a shot of part of the elevator mechanism taken through a new opening where glass used to be. Since it was unlit inside, I had to really overexpose the shot to see the mechanism – hence, the whited-out exterior.




Across the street in Anderson Park, they turn on the fountain every spring. What the workers didn’t know was that someone had apparently gummed the works up with detergent, making the wading-pool area into a soapy bathtub. It took them two days to get it all cleared out, but it was a definite first to see soap suds reach as high as the flag.




Every New Year’s Day around noon, I drag myself out to photograph the “La Senora de la Nube” (Our Lady of the Cloud) procession put on by the local Ecuadorian population. It’s so close by – lately, it goes right past my building – and it’s such a visual treat to photograph, why wouldn’t I?

The best way to describe it is a backwards mullet: this is “party in the front and business in the back”.

I certainly don’t understand the visuals and symbolism. While jaunty accordion music plays, people dressed up in outlandish costumes and carrying large, unusual…………items lead the way.

All of a sudden the statue of Mary with baby Jesus – carried by a half-dozen men – is upon you with a LOT of people singing solemnly…………but the fact that you can still plainly hear the “front” music still bouncing around makes it a sort of confusing mix.

The first photo shows the front section of the procession turning onto my street, while I’m shooting from the roof. The next two shots show masked people carrying effigies of an animal and a person.

And then along comes Mary…………..and things get serious.







One Sunday morning, I started hearing amplified voices coming over loudspeakers. I thought it might be some musical event in the park across the street, but when I got out on the roof to check it out, my ears took a sharp left and from the same spot where I shot the Ecuadorian procession, I took the first picture: someone had jammed a car show into a small church parking lot, completely without advertising or any sort of notice!

They had to show many of the cars on the street because there was no room in the lot.

I ran right over.

I’ll just post a couple of pictures because y’all know what a car show looks like.

I got a shot of the front end of the Hudson Terraplane AND the rear end of the butler’s girlfriend. The last one shows the church on whose parking lot the show was on.



The Terraplane’s front interior:





Sticking my neck out on a slightly snowy day:




You saw my guitars in the 2000 post. Since then, I’ve donated my hole-y fake Strat to the former Keef Leafe (2008 post), ignored the fake V, and beaten the crap out of the fake Les Paul (plus, it got snowed on), so it was time for another fake Strat, with this one being hole-free, a lot lighter than the fake Les Paul, and better-looking than all of them.





Mr. Exercise (follow the 1-2-3-4 sequence of 3,3,3,3 pix each)

I could not believe this guy.

He walked and then ran in the parking lot that’s behind my building. He started to take off his shirt, but before he could finish doing that, he had to do some pushups. Then he got up and started running and THEN finished removing his shirt.

He ran around the corner and then came right back down the sidewalk on the lot’s border, where he started about a minute before, jogging and running.

By now, this Energizer Buddy is probably somewhere in the vicinity of Ogden, Utah (nod to Robert Klein).




This has to be one of the most expressive triptychs I’ve ever created. And that woman is not “OMG!”-ing at me – I’m almost a block away and 7 floors above her:




This is probably my favorite creation of the year, though it didn’t take much imagination or skill. It’s just one picture that I took while stopped in my car at a traffic light. I reversed and combined it horizontally and vertically.

That WAS an SUV with 2 pups that – without any tricks – became an interplanetary star cruiser called Symmetry with a crew of 8.






I used to shoot the Robert Klein Radio Hour when it taped at RCA Studios in NYC from 1979-1981. The show was nationally syndicated and aired in the NYC/NJ area on WNEW-FM. You can check that out on bobleafe.com in the Robert Klein listing.

I saw him this year on April 3 when he did a show in nearby Englewood, NJ. I hadn’t seen him in all those years and was fortunate to find a loose 4th-row center orchestra ticket so I could shoot with my little Canon.

I brought a bunch of 5×7 prints with me from the Radio Hour days to show him and arranged to see him backstage after the show.

When I introduced myself, I knew he didn’t remember me at all when he said, “Ah, you haven’t changed a bit!”

He liked the pictures, so we arranged to talk at a later date. I wasn’t home when he called, but when he left a message, he went right into some schtick.

Here’s a short mp3 excerpt:

He asked for my address and was gracious enough to send me an autographed copy of his (recommended!) book, “The Amorous Busboy of Decatur Avenue”:



Here’s a picture I took at his Englewood performance and below it is one with me backstage after the show:



This man is still my favorite comedian.





The rest of 2016:






























Under the Anderson St/Cedar Lane Bridge (Hackensack to Teaneck view):






My super’s idea of matching faucets:























My one culinary masterpiece:




New breed: Lazy-eyed Pointer





Man on the can:























Headgear of the year:





































The Anderson St Bridge Art Gallery (Hackensack side):
































Passenger Pigeon (I thought they were extinct) with a wing seat on Eagle Air:










Same wall from two directions:














































Family cools off in the shade on a 98-degree day:


































Big Photo Finish for 2016 (I love capturing these lightning shots):




I looked out my living room window at sunset and saw this incredibly-long orange-y cloud. I knew it wouldn’t look like that for long, due to the sinking sun, so I hopped into stitch mode.

The good news is that I got the whole cloud in the 4-image stitch, but the bad news is that – in my rush – I completely ignored what the camera positioning did to the buildings and the horizon. The fix is in the second picture.

Click the first image once. After it takes over the screen, hover the mouse over the image. You should get a + sign. Then click it again. It’s now full-size and must be scrolled to see everything. Click it once more to shrink it back and then use your back button to return to the post.


Hey, Canon! You gotta work this alert into your cameras:





This is a 5-photo stitch that features Hackensack high-rises (far left) and businesses (yellow/orange-y buildings) in the left half and Bogota industry on the right. The Hackensack River (foreground) bends around to go under the bridge and separates the two towns.




This 3-picture Manhattan-at-Sundown stitch was taken from my living room. It starts on the left at 59th St (southern edge of Central Park) and includes 432 Park Ave – the tallest residential building in the US – the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center complex. Everything under it is in New Jersey (mostly Hackensack).




This is a 3-picture stitch of construction at the new Bergen County Justice Center project, taken in February 2016. The project was completed in 2017. If you’d like to see it from start to finish – something I shot for 3 years – go here: http://www.hackensacknow.org/index.php/topic,2748



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