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Recently published work: Sidetracked, The Great Outdoors, Outdoor Focus

Alex Roddie
Alex Roddie
7 min read
Recently published work: Sidetracked, The Great Outdoors, Outdoor Focus

So far, 2024 has been so hectic that I've barely found time to post on this blog, but a lot has been happening! I thought I'd take this opportunity to post a bit about some of my recently published work.

I used to post this stuff all the time, keeping readers up to date with what I've been writing, but alas I got out of the habit. Maybe I should try to start it up again.

Sidetracked Volume 29: A Sense of Purpose

Our most recent edition of the Sidetracked print journal is out now, and I think you'll agree that the front cover, featuring a remarkable image by Eva Capozzola, is a winner. This is from a story by Lonnie Dupre called 'Qimmiq', about two expeditions to Greenland separated by 21 years. His treatise on the remarkable changes that have taken place in Greenland since 2001 was a total pleasure to work on.

The stories in this volume ended up coalescing around the theme of purpose – finding it, what that purpose is, and the value of connection and engagement over taking the easy way.

The challenges I find in the mountains give me a sense of purpose and help me feel truly alive. In a world where we are surrounded by instant gratification, challenge and effort keep us from tumbling into anxiety and malaise. —Liv Sansoz

These words by Liv Sansoz, who wrote the foreword for this volume, crystallised these ideas for me. There’s a powerful link between challenge and connection. When things are easy, we’re less engaged. Engagement requires effort. By testing ourselves we can forge that sense of purposeful connection – with the people around us, with the natural world, and with ourselves. We live in an era of unprecedented abundance and choice for more people than ever before. But if we aren’t engaging with the world around us, are we living life to the full? Intentionally taking the hard path, turning away from ease and comfort to strengthen something in our souls, requires effort – but can reveal our sense of purpose.

I wrote the above for this issue's marketing blurb, but I happen to believe in these ideas passionately. People are starting to figure out that the ease-making convenience of the modern world does not necessarily result in a satisfying life – unless you are intentional. I see this everywhere I look. In twenty-somethings turning back to paper books because they are exhausted by looking at screens all the time. In the enduring appeal of adventure. In the resistance against generative AI. In the spectacular resurrection of film photography. Engagement and satisfaction require effort, the testing of muscles both physical and mental; are we really living to our full capacity if we always choose the easiest path in everything we do? How can we ever learn to be self-reliant and confident if we slouch through life on auto mode?

As a (very relevant) aside, several pieces in this issue of Sidetracked feature analogue – that is, 35mm film – photographs. In one case (Lonnie's Greenland piece) it's because some of the photos are archive shots from 2001. However, an increasing number of our contributors are now providing film scans, usually in addition to digital. This isn't because we're asking for film. It's because more photographers are using film again, especially younger photographers, and we're starting to see that trickle back up to professionals submitting work to magazines and brand projects.

If your photography is good, this is a way you can stand out – or just offer something a bit different to the digital images everyone else is sending in. Photographers are starting to realise that film is a way they can differentiate themselves. I love to see this! But here's a plea: make sure your scans are good. We don't want to see low-resolution, badly colour-corrected scans covered in dust and scratches. Use a professional lab or do the work yourself. Send us good scans of good photographs, please; a photo isn't automatically good just because it was shot on film.

Sami Sauri's feature includes a number of high-quality film images

Anyway, I'm off on a tangent. Sidetracked 29 contains a bunch of fantastic stories. Of particular note:

  • 'Chasing History' by Ben Tibbetts. A very interesting essay about layers of history in the Alps, from Hannibal to the decline of the ski industry.
  • 'Moose Tracks Under Water' by Ian Finch. Moose conservation in the USA, and a reminder that important work often isn't glamorous (they didn't actually see a single moose on the whole trip).
  • 'It Started With a Detour' by Sami Sauri, ghostwritten by me. A pleasure to work with Sami on this piece – and I love her 35mm film images.
  • 'Blethering the Weather' by Hannah Bailey. A companion piece to Thrawn, her new film about the history of snowsports in the Cairngorms.
  • 'A Single Moment: Grace Over Gravity' by David Lintern. Very glad to publish David's work in Sidetracked once again – and a really superb Single Moment from a recent Alpine long-distance hike.
  • 'Connection' by Krystle Wright. Going right to the heart of the challenge/connection/intention ideas, Krystle has written a powerful piece about the importance of being able to get away from digital technology if we want to (and how that freedom is being lost).
  • 'Salimor Khola' by Hamish Frost. A classic, old-school, high-altitude Himalayan mountaineering expedition accompanied by truly exceptional photos.

I've been on the Sidetracked team since Volume 4, all the way back in 2015. That's nine out of the ten years (in July) I have been in my current career. The time has flown by, but I still find Sidetracked the most enjoyable work I've ever done. This summer, Volume 30 marks our ten-year print anniversary. We're marking the occasion with a unique festival in Cornwall. Come and join us!

If you value high-quality adventure writing and photography, the best possible thing you can do is subscribe to Sidetracked. We publish three issues a year, and I promise that it'll be worth it.

TGO April 2024

I really should shout about The Great Outdoors (TGO) more often, because I've had new work published in every issue for quite a while now – at least six months, perhaps a year, without any gaps. Readers will know that my relationship with this magazine goes back even further than my relationship with Sidetracked. It's another publication that I passionately believe in. But it does very different work – TGO is about sharing knowledge, passing down hard-won experience, encouraging new generations, and providing a platform for new voices.

This year the bulk of my work has been in gear testing (I'll have more to write about this soon, but it's been keeping me busy), writing mapped Wild Walks, and the odd skills piece – as well as occasional full features, but I am doing fewer of these than I used to.

In the April edition I have a joint feature with my friend Emily Woodhouse, telling the story of our April 2023 hike of the Dartmoor Way. 'Unmoored' explores concepts of belonging, feeling at home, and the current situation with wild camping on Dartmoor. I also have two Wild Walks: Ardmore Bay on Mull, and Deuchary Hill in Perthshire (both featuring pictures of my wife Hannah).

Outdoor Focus

I've been a member of the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild for five years, and at the AGM last year I agreed to take on the role of editor for Outdoor Focus, the Guild's quarterly journal. Spring 2024 – just published – is my first issue. I haven't seen a print copy yet, but I'm told that the print run came out ok, which is a relief!

It's a privilege to be able to serve this community in a new way. This role is not about making money; it's about paying something both back and forward. I've learnt a lot from some of the vastly more experienced writers and photographers in the Guild. I also feel that, after a decade, I have reached the point in my career where I can contribute a bit of time to helping those less experienced than myself. I've enjoyed my first issue and am looking forward to working on the summer edition.

(Cover model: James Roddie on a Torridon day out last year. Usually I'm the cover model and he's wielding the camera, so this makes a refreshing change!)

Are you an outdoor writer or photographer, looking to network with a group of fellow professionals? I've found OWPG members to be eager to share their experience and knowledge. Membership has been invaluable for me, helping me to negotiate various professional situations – everything from book contracts to fees. Join here:

Alex Roddie

Happiest on a mountain. Writer, story-wrangler, digital and film photographer. Editor of Sidetracked magazine (I make the words come out good).


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