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:


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.


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).


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


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.


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.


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.

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to journal_editors@ams.queensu.ca.

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