Features - Recycling Ride-along

There are only a few things nowadays that might compel me to wake up before the crack of dawn and venture out into a snowstorm. A very unique photo assignment had me rolling out of bed at a quarter to six and fumbling for my warmest clothes and a mug of tea on the morning of January 12, 2011.

A garbage truck ride-along had been an idea that Features Editor Jake Edmiston and I had mulled over. With the story now a reality, I knew this assignment would either yield some interesting images or be a complete bust.

I had several concerns, one of which was the amount of light. With a 6:15 a.m. wake-up time and sunrise at 7:39 a.m., I was worried that I would be shooting in pitch-blackness. The elements and the cold would also be a concern, since I would spend most of my time trudging through the snow beside the truck. I laid out my camera gear, extra sweaters, and set three alarm clocks. And despite my desire for sleep, my excitement kept me lying awake for longer than I would have liked.

The Ghetto was stirring slowly in the grey light by the time I returned home, utterly frozen and with a greater appreciation for the work that garbage and recycling collection workers do. I uploaded my images and promptly got back into bed, knowing that I had at least one image that I could be proud of. In retrospect, the assignment went quite well and I had several keepers.

Here they are:

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Waste collection personnel replace a garbage bin as snow continues to fall in Kingston. I fortuitously shot this image from the foyer of my home while waiting to rendezvous with Jake and our assigned recycling truck. Despite waking at 6:00 a.m., it would be an hour before we would meet. Playing the waiting game is incredibly difficult when it is both so early and so cold.

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Kyle Hannah empties a grey bin into his recycling truck at Johnson Street and Division Street on January 12, 2011. My worries about light were quelled: streetlights, a bright work light on the truck, and the hazy purple dawn sky provided enough light for an even exposure (1/80th at f/2.8, ISO 4000).

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Kyle Hannah drives through a deserted intersection at Brock and Alfred Street on his recycling route through the Queen’s Student Ghetto in Kingston.

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Winter trash collection brings its own challenges. Snow banks along the curbs present another obstacle as Hannah leaves the warmth of his cab to reach another set of recycling bins.

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Snow batters Kyle Hannah’s face as he continues along his route down Albert Street Wednesday morning. The last two images are very similar and were shot seconds apart yet I can’t decide which I like more. I love the swirling snow in the first image; however, Hannah’s clear facial expression and positioning give the second photo more context.

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I parted ways shortly before 8:00 a.m., as the Student Ghetto began to wake. Jake, having spent most of his time in the cab, continued the ride-along with Hannah while I returned home to thaw out. If you haven’t yet checked out the new Journal layout or read Jake’s article, I would encourage you to do so. Special thanks to Kyle Hannah of the City of Kingston for being such a great subject and not objecting to the camera that was clicking in his face for an hour.

As always, there’s more to come on The Rejects.

Stay warm.

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