There are a number of rules in photography from the simple rule of thirds, triangles, symmetry, to golden spiral and the list goes on. However they are not so much rules, more a general guide. You will find that a picture that works will more often than not fit one of the rules.
When you have found a scene that has potential, take the time to assess it. This is when my brain kicks in to composition mode. What will work best? What is the picture about? Take the time to walk around and look for something that will make it different. Do you need foreground interest? Is there a leading line? or converging lines? These things will draw you into the picture. Does it need to be framed, or something to stop your interest from exiting the picture? Find an interesting angle, like getting down low and looking up. Depth of field can still play a big part in landscapes. Do you want the whole scene in focus or is it just about a particular focal point?
Use leading lines to draw you into the picture. The position of the clouds stops you from exiting through the top .
One of the great things about digital photography is we can be happy snappers with purpose. I personally am a prolific photo taker. Don’t be scared to take things from every angle, especially when learning. Then you can take the time on the computer to assess what works best and why.
Previewing (or chimping) in the field can also be very useful. Turn on your blinkies (highlight preview) This feature will indicate over/under exposed areas on the image. Zoom in and look around the scene in detail. Are you happy with the depth of field? Is there clutter or rubbish that can be removed? Take your time. There is nothing worse than getting home and finding a piece of clutter that will be a difficult cloning job to remove on the computer. And as you fix the mistake you are saying to yourself, “I wish I had taken two steps to the left.”
Don’t be afraid to give yourself some space in a picture to crop a bit later. I have found that cropping ratios create different effects. What works as a 20x30cm pic will not work as a 40×50, or maybe it will work better as a panorama. Allow yourself a bit of play room.
Shooting in the golden hours (around dawn and dusk) gives you beautiful long shadows.
The most important thing is light. It’s our frenemy (friend and enemy). It can work for you or against you. You often hear people talk about the golden hours (1hr after sunrise & 1hr before sunset) being best. However that doesn’t mean you can’t take pictures at other times of the day. Around midday, especially in summer, it can be very flat and harsh. On the other hand winter light can be much softer.
Keep a note book of sights you have found. Think of how it will look at a different time of day. Often I will assess a scene as being a morning shot (best taken with the morning light). It might be worth a trip back on another day to get the better lighting.
Using a lower angle will create a dramatic effect. This was taken with harsh lighting at 11.30 am in January. However it still works well and the B&W conversion helps.
The best thing about landscape photography is the hunt. Getting out for a drive and taking all of those back roads. You might explore roads you have passed a million times. You never know what you will find.