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Tuesday, 23 May 2017


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I have learned to take pictures and I have learned to recoginze those who suck. But the internet does not seem to be able to teach me to recognize which of my pictures are good.
Maybe a post. A hundred words or so. To teach me how to see which pictures of mine really are keepers.
It would be very much appreciated.


Food for thought, Mike - is this really unique to landscape photography or is this more attributable to the fact that landscape photography is just something you dabble in ?

Granted, you're less likely to shoot the same type of clunkers you're bound to get shooting moving subjects (people or wildlife) but can certainly shoot something you thought looked good at the time, but just didn't have the makings of a good picture.

I wonder if people who maybe shoot landscapes all the time and only occasionally shoot kids (maybe they don't have kids of their own, but have neices and nephews) find the same thing to be true - they get lots of "almost" shots and few really good ones. And if the reason is really because, since they only dabble in it, their standards for that genre aren't as high as their standards for what they do all the time.

In other words, if you spent more time doing landscape, would your "good" pictures today end up in the trash bin in a year ? Conversely are your trash bin pictures of family as good as some people's keepers ?

I dabble in backyard/vacation wildlife photography. Purely opportunistic stuff. I don't have the knowledge or ambition to get myself into situations where I could get really good photos, but I bring home some that I consider pretty good. Keepers. On the other hand, I've done enough landscapes in the past that I'll readily toss stuff that doesn't rise above a higher standard. Kid pictures are tough because I only shoot family & friends and so there's a sentimental connection. I'll keep many not-so-good pictures for the memories. But at the same time, I readily acknowledge that they're not-so-good.

Anyway, just wondering if you could be in a honeymoon period with your new landscape and once you get a little jaded, your standards might change. Like I said, just food for thought. I'll continue to think about it from your hypothesis - that maybe landscape is easier to get "good" results (but just as hard to get great ones).

The top picture struck me instantly as perfect for a magazine article about farming or agriculture. Headline goes up top in the clouds. Very nice.

I think each would be better cropped to 16 x 9 (like our TVs and monitors) leaving out most of the clouds -- they're fighting with the buildings (top picture) and the orchard (bottom picture) for attention.

My opinion. Worth exactly what you paid for it. Probably less.

The process of judgement (or editing), for me, is quite fluid and happens over time. I recently reedited and reprinted a series I’d exhibited years ago, for a new exhibit. There were pictures that made the cut in 2008 that failed in 2017. And one picture I’d neglected in the first show, that I felt quite good about years later. I love that aspect of the process. The best pictures are gifts that might not be appreciated until time has past. And my final edit for a particular exhibit is always made from a batch of prints. I’ve never quite figured out why, but the screen just isn’t quite the same as the print, no matter how well profiled the monitor.

Speaking as a landscape photographer, I believe the most important determinant in the status of a photograph is the quality of the light when the photograph was taken. If the light is really beautiful, or extraordinary in some way, then you a chance of producing a "great" image. But only a slim chance - as you pointed out, even acknowledged "great" photographers find it quite hard to produce great images.

But light is extremely important; it is very rare to see great landscape images produced in dull, overcast conditions. Though a few examples can probably be found which contradict this, it will be only a very few and I believe my original statement is fairly accurate.

I think we've had a variation of this conversation before, which is fine by me. I hold on to many of my "not quites" and even share them because I still like how they look and I'm not building a professional portfolio. They also might see use in a series where they complete the whole but don't really stand out as "wow." Like B roll.

However, there are times when the light is so good, that yes, pretty much every shot looks fantastic in a "good light" way, and yet when I return home, no shot really says much to me. Other times I'm heading home and find my favorite in the parking lot instead of the field...

Regarding "keepers" - I do find that I become more critical of my own work over time. Pictures that I thought had a certain something sometimes/often reveal themselves as worse than ordinary when a couple of years have gone by. The ones that still look good after five years? Well, I'd stack those up against anyone's (I know, it isn't really a contest, but still . . .)

Sometimes, Ansel is up there orchestrating the clouds and the light right when you need it...but many times (most), it's up to you to use your skills and craft the rough ingot of an image into a shiny gem.

Good landscape photographs are often well-composed, properly exposed and competently processed, but that doesn't necessarily make them good photographs. These are all beautiful scenes, but there is nothing in them to make them special. Admittedly the "special" is in the eye of the beholder and possibly easier to identify with animate objects. Finding that elusive missing element is one of the difficult things with landscape photography.

I tried to simplify the process. If my pic isn't great, it sucks. And for me, a great pic is one that when I frame and put it on the wall, I enjoy looking at it every day.

The hard part is looking at the sucky pics, figure out why they suck, then make "un suck" adjustments next time out shooting.

I experience what you describe every time I shoot landscapes (which is always). A few of the merely "good" ones can sometimes be improved with editing, but usually not. Regardless what others say, I'm convinced it's all about "mood." That's my word, others may call it something else.

Given the fundamentals like good composition, exposure, etc., the few of mine that get an unqualified "yes" seem to be those that closely convey the mood of what I was experiencing at the time. Stark or cold, dark or ominous, joyous or depressive, the words are endless. I have never, for example, been able to capture the mood of rain in the forest despite hundreds of shots. Yet I've see others' photos on the web or in print that nail it. It's frustrating sometimes, but that is also what makes it challenging, for me.

Edited pics:



In my opinion, landscape is the classic genre that benefits the most from post-processing. As a subject, most landscapes on their own are fairly commonplace in our minds’ eyes, and by that I mean we all (those of us with vision) look at landscapes all day long just by walking around or looking out a window. The thing that makes landscape photography stand out is the transformation of those well-seen scenes into something more painterly, or pictorialist if you will, via post processing.

I am absolutely not talking about over-cooking! Tone-mapped HDR landscapes make me want to retreat to a coal mine. I mean the kind of subtle enhancements that a good eye and a deft touch on the selectors and sliders can use to turn a good photograph into a great one. Think of the amount of darkroom work Ansel Adams did, or watch the work that’s done in those videos for landscape photo retouching software such as Lightroom or Affinity. With landscapes, “great” rarely comes straight out of the camera.

A few years back I deleted several thousand macro bug photos I had done. I just didn't care about them! They were part of the deletion of half of my 120k files. I want to do that again. And again. Til I get to 500 awesome photos.

Most times when I'm sorting through my photos it's "nope, nope, nope, wait a second.... nope, nope, maybe...save for now, nope nope..."

I once read that Saint Ansel said he wanted one good photo a year so that in 20 years he'd have an amazing portfolio.

I was hoping you'd return to the difficulties of editing for similar reasons. I live in a photogenic part of the world where I've been honing my appreciation of certain places for many years. Photographing certain landscapes has come to feel almost like taking family portraits. Perhaps because of this emotional investment I find that I often some back from a walk with a dozen, even twenty, images that I consider 'keepers'.

But keepers in the sense that they work in the context of a particular set of pictures. Variations in light, weather patterns, seasonal changes -and 'mood' too I suppose- mean that I'm reluctant to pick 'n mix photos from different sets.

I wonder whether that sense that many landscape photos don't quite make it comes from a more or less unconscious feeling that we really ought to be producing spectacular work? Some photos may simply not thrive on their own, but when introduced to the right company the chemistry starts to work.

Landscapes are generally serene subjects. For them to have visual impact it is often necessary to do a bit of Photoshop work on them. Yeah, I know. "Get it right in the camera". The problem with that is that a camera doesn't see like humans do. Look at Ansel Adams work. He pushed and pulled contrast in the development, used filters to chance tonal relationships, dodged and burned.

Converting to B&W can help a dull landscape that was otherwise well seen and composed because with color removed from the equation, tones can be pushed further and still be believable. That's a big reason why Ansel preferred B&W. Here's a similar scene to yours. I converted to B&W and pushed the roof tone to near white while keeping the darkest tone at black.

Another trick is to increase the saturation. That is trickier because it can easily become postcardie and fake looking but look at what Guy Tal does with color, sumptuous hues that are entirely believable but I'm sure the file coming out of the camera didn't look exactly like that any more than a straight print from one of Ansel's negatives looked like what is on all those calendars.

We *create* our images, we don't just *take* them. If you only take photos, you aren't going to get many really good ones.

For me, the landscapes that I photograph the most are what I would call intimate landscapes. They are small fields, forgotten corners of forests, a country road that I travel regularly, any part of the countryside in which I live that has meaning to me after living here for 14 years. None of them are grand and sweeping. Because of the hills and trees, you very seldom get to see anything more than a mile off. They are mundane, banal even, and yet if you will take the time and look, you can get some real keepers.

I think though, that I'm not after great shots, but reminders of what the countryside means to me, a place of renewal, a place where my community raised $12,000.00 to help pay for the funerals of two primary school kids who were killed about a month back while they were running for the school bus. The landscape doesn't exist all by itself. I and my neighbors live here and we are very bound up in the land and each other. It is where I call Home, in the finest sense of the word. (Sorry, didn't mean to preach.)

With best regards,


I photograph places around my home, don't know if they qualify as "landscapes" - it's not exactly Iceland or Yosemite, anyway. Here's my take on the subject:

I don't know how you would define a "great" landscape picture, but in my opinion there is nothing wrong with quiet, unspectacular pictures. They just need time to grow on me - for me, a "great" picture is one that I still like even after a couple of years. On the other hand, I often find that I become bored with pictures which I initially considered "great".

There is another thing: I think that pictures of this kind work best when they are part of a project, of a "body of work". If the pictures form a coherent body, if they really "sing together", then their combined effect easily surpasses any single picture, however "awesome" or "iconic" it might be. There is even more: You could, for example, tell the story of a particular place, or the effect of time or man on a place - this won't work with a single picture.

As examples, have a look at Jem Southam's "The Painter's Pool" and "The River - Winter", or Bernhard Fuchs' "Waldungen".

After a decade or two of trying to get that great landscape, I figured out the problem - no people in 'em.

A walk or drive through the countryside is often enthralling and I am inspired to shoot lots of landscapes with great hope and expectation. While I'm shooting, I'm sure I am capturing sublime landscapes, but like you Mike, the screen or print views fall short of my expectations. Some are nice but few are really keepers.
In the field, I am tempted to use a 35 (e) mm because I want to capture the whole view. My guess is that the wider view contains too much detail to translate to the smaller view of a print or screen. It is just harder to make a good composition with that wider view.
I have found my success rate is much better if I keep an 85 (e) mm lens on the camera. The longer lens compresses space and forces me to select fewer details. And perhaps the narrower view through the moderate telephoto simplifies the lighting, giving coherence to the composition.

Another edit:


The best phrase I've heard that is useful in this context is "If in doubt, there is not doubt." If you're not sure, chuck it. It really makes life a lot simpler.

The seeming ease with which competent photography can be done with digital has unnerved me. I've pulled out my film cameras and just ordered a bunch of inexpensive Kodak color film. I'm not ditching digital but, the need to go barefoot a bit is like, yeah.

"...there are numerous times when I go out shooting and come back with a bunch of exposures in which every single one is good but not a single one is great.

I find this almost...confusing..."

Don't be confused, Mike. The explanation is simple to we anti-social types. Nature, even when 'contaminated' by the works of man, is inherently 'better' than people. Also, what makes a great landscape picture is almost always the confluence of an extraordinary weather event and spectacular light.

Keep trying. The only difference now is that you'll just have to discard a lot of good exposures (rather than bad ones) before making a great one. Luck combined with skill will get you there. :-)

Mike, the only difference an average image and a great image is the light. The top image is a good composition but dull light. Go back and take the image again in early morning or early evening light and I bet you would have your " keeper". I try and take pictures of the same subjects at varying times of day and the difference is striking. Light as they say, is everything.


Here's a good New Zealand site for landscape, plus other good stuff:


Solid and consistent.

:) Cheers,

Hi, Mike. I hope you will not take offense, but something is bothering me. Lake Ontario, there, is still rising, flooding out people's homes, cottages, businesses and streets. Attempts have been made to implicate bad weather, but It is a manmade disaster after all. We are led to believe that the Army Corps of Engineers and its Canadian counterpart can't come up with any other way to relieve flooding downstream in Montreal. So, we are committed by treaty to higher water levels than have ever before been recorded. My problem is that I perceive a lack of outrage as another bit of our way of life disappears without comment or concern. However, there are a lot of photo ops there documenting the mess. Thanks for taking the time to read this.

The bulk of my photographs are of landscapes, and I agree with your premise regarding 'good but not great' results. My theory is that landscape scenes are so ubiquitous and so beautiful that most of us have access to The Real Thing and don't really need a photograph that is a flat reproduction of something that in life is 3-D and wonderful.

To be a 'keeper' a photograph needs to be itself —a photograph, not a reproduction of reality— and it needs to be something that the subject is not. With a portrait or a 'street photograph' successful photographs freeze an instant in time which in real life cannot be viewed and contemplated at leisure in a world that is in constant motion. Often successful photographs —including 'landscape photographs'— succeed because they capture an instant of light that one feels instinctively will never occur in quite that way again. (Who can hold onto light?)

One of the reasons that landscape photographs rarely rise above reproduction status, I suspect, is that so many people are seduced by the ability to reproduce scenes in colour. The classic landscapes of St. Ansel are mostly black and white: they are obviously photographs and there is no risk of seeing them as a reproduction of the scene that he photographed. His successful colour landscapes, and those of others, tend to be 'about' colour, not about the real life scene.

The highest rate of 'keepers' I've achieved with landscape photographs was when I worked almost exclusively with an X-Pan camera and made prints in panorama format — horizontal and occasionally vertical. Did something in that non-standard format cue the viewer that "this is a photograph, not picture of what you would have seen if you were there"?

I agree, Mike, that the third photograph you posted is by far the most successful. And it's obviously a photograph —though it could easily be a painting— about light and dark and shape and subtle colour … but obviously it's not a picture of the place where it was taken, because we can hardly see the place at all.

The first two photos really show one problem with landscape photos. The foreground subject is not striking. However, you clearly have the eye for the drama that is really taking place--in the sky. I pass on a lot of shots if the sky does not make the scene. The right sky add so much texture to a picture. One thing that adds to the blandness is they are taken at eye level on the ground. Basically, you are standing on the same plane as the subject matter. One way to get around this is to look for higher ground or go low. In the case of the second photo, taking it in IR would have given the trees a more dramatic look when placed against the darker clouds.

My opinion: It's REALLY HARD to capture the way you feel about the vista you point your camera at. For me, the result is almost always disappointing.

Contrariwise, every so often, I find one image embedded in a vast slew of nothing that inspires a, "I've got to print that!"

Since these seem to be shots you've just taken, I'm curious: How do you feel about your landscape shots after letting them sit for an extended period of time? How do you react when your eye happens to fall on one by accident, having forgotten when and where the shot was taken, as well as how you were feeling at the time?

I have five Helmut Newton books, and in one of them ("Archives de Nuit") I found several pure landscapes. But I think you were on the right track -- somebody best known for model photography or portraiture? Or how about that Japanese guy (whose name I don't remember) who did a lot of sexualized noir-type photography...

Know the feeling well. Partly depends upon whether you are a hunter or a fisher of scenes / images. If hunting, you'll take what you can get, if a fisher, you wait for the light & composition to be just so. Other factors also come into play that force one or the other - is photography done in & around other things, are you on a schedule etc. I have done a fair bit of bush-walking in Australia (tramping / back country walking ect), with an outdoors club, and walking to a schedule means photography is incidental & I have to take what is there & then. If I were bush-walking solely for photography, I'd have the time to do a bit of both.
It's called practice :) Don't expect zingers from every shoot.
P.S. congrats on the young fella, makes me appreciate how my parents felt. I'm at the other end of the spectrum. Just commenced 3 months parental leave to be with my 9 month old son. Hopefully I might even get a chance to practice photography.

I'm primarily a landscape and seascape artist, not just a photographer. Almost every photographer will have more technical knowledge than I do. I depend on my artistic vision. I take many photos and 99% don't make the cut. Maybe more. On the other hand, sometimes I go back in the files and find one that works that I didn't notice before.

When I look at collections of most famous photographers I see some photos that I enjoy while most of the others I don't like at all. Even many of Ansel Adams I don't like. Yeah, I said it, but I still respect his contribution overall.

Part of it is what scenes we are drawn to, that fire a response in our being. I generally find something to enjoy in almost every collection. But most.... no.

The problem is that (a) what sucks one day doesn't the next, and (b) what I proudly printed and framed on my wall as a keeper now sucks. That's why I've kept my negs in the film days, and most of my RAWs now.

It's the light Mike!

Since I think of myself primarily as a landscape photographer your post makes me want to elucidate, primarily to myself, exactly what and why I feel driven to illustrate my love of place with photographs (and sometimes with words). I know my main drive is an endless fascination with land: the way it has been shaped and formed by either natural process or mankind’s hand. I have always been fascinated with the evolution of landscapes, an interest that led me to tertiary studies in geography and geology, but that is not what drives my need to photograph. That is more an emotional response to place: and strongly linked to the sense of beauty and peace I find in the natural world. I have always suspected that this feeling reflects the comfort I found in the outside world through a relatively lonely period in my early teens. I was at a English boarding school from the age of 13 years and its main saving grace, other than one or two teachers, was the emphasis on outdoor sport and the beauty of the surrounding farmland and woodlands. And that love of place is what I’m for ever trying to illustrate, and just occasionally, I think I succeed. However, for any image, the larger part of the appreciation lives not in the image, but in how the viewer relates to it. In that, the photographer has no control. I hope they have a similar emotional response to that which I experienced at the time I made the image. But in reality that is highly unlikely unless I manage to invoke memories in them of their own love of a similar place or time.

I think as a rule that our portfolios are defined more by what we leave out, than what we put it.

Helmut Newton made black and white landscapes photos during his late years.

What is your definition between good and great in your landscape photos ?

Some of my pictures are good, but not a single one is perfect. If I in the future manage to shoot one perfect picture, I will quit my photography hobby. It would all downhill from there on. Why would I bother for only good ones after getting a perfect one?

So, I am happy with the current best pictures, as long as none is perfect.

Why not try the same landscapes at dusk or dawn?

Good light turns any landscape from "mundane" into "magical".

Failing that, there are places that look spectacular no matter the light. I'm thinking mountains, national parks, deserts, rare places...

I don't take landscape images very often. I find that, compared to reality, the image is always a disappointment.

I prefer photographs that show something interesting about ordinary places and people. Glamour models and perfect landscapes all look the same after a while.

Try changing the shots to B&W and see what happens... Sometimes color just interferes... but good, interesting light has a lot to do with it.

As a landscape photographer, after 20 years or so of doing it, I am sure that an outstanding landscape photography requires: good subject, good composition, interesting light. Plus a lot of persistence and waking up really early, especially in the summer:)

Would this photo be considered a landscape?

In any case it is part of the exhibition "Legendary Landscapes", now at the High Desert Museum in Oregon.

Would this photo be considered a landscape?

In any case it is part of the current exhibit, "Legendary Landscapes", at the High Desert Museum in Oregon.

My landscapes work best when there is interesting weather/sky to add drama to the scene. Otherwise, the image looks just like every other taken in the same place.

A picture of the Grand Canyon can be" Good," but a picture of the Grand Canyon with lightning or fog can be dramatic.

Canyon lightning

It is all about practice. Most people never put the required work into becoming great at something. If you want to photograph trees for example, stop reading books about photographing trees or looking at other people's work. Instead, go out and take photographs of 5,000 trees. You will realize in the process that some of them are better than others, and you will start judging your work against itself. Pretty soon, you will start taking "better" photographs of trees, and ultimately maybe some great ones that stand above all others.

When I came back to photography as an adult I had a period where I shot a lot of color slides. Like most dork engineer types, I had an interest in the technical side of things just for the sake of it, and color slides are an easy way to exercise that interest. The natural subject for color slides is landscape, so I spent a lot of time waiting for golden hour, hanging around cold places with a tripod or whatnot. This is one reason I like those Galen Rowell books so much.

I took what I thought were some OK pictures, but never anything that I'd call super.

Probably the best thing I ever did:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/8454137790/in/album-72157632708477093/

Eventually my interest started to migrate back to black and white, which is what I had learned to do before I was an adult, and I realized that a lot of the reason why my landscape pictures were never that interesting (at least to me) was that I am not that interested in landscapes, nature scenes, "the land", or whatever. It's not really my thing. You can't take pictures that connect emotionally with others if the subject matter never really connects emotionally with yourself. So I stopped doing it seriously. My real interest is more in urban scenes, light on buildings with no people around, that sort of thing. So those are what my more "serious" pictures are like.

If I had read the Galen Rowell books more carefully I'd have realized this at the beginning and saved myself some time. But whatever.

Obligatory comment on the phone picture: Why should it be hard to believe that you can make a good photograph with a modern smart phone? Why does this upset people so? 😃

Out of curiosity, after reading Keith Mallett's post (he and I resonate about emotional responses to the landscape), I went to his site/gallery. Highly recommended as a random excellence post. He gets what it takes to invoke an emotional response in the viewer, something I am still learning to do.

The comments about light are right on. A good subject in poor light sucks. In great light, it becomes something magical. My favorite times for landscape are dawn and dusk, before/after the sun rises/sets. Tripods, mirror lockup and timers are a must, since typical shutter speeds will range from 30 to 5 seconds (bring a light so you can see to setup/tear down).

And don't underestimate the requirement for proper post-processing. Not only do you need to pay attention to overall and mid-tone contrast, black and white point, but also the color palette itself. Sometimes nature needs a little cleaning up. Sky a "cheesy" blue? Fix it. Not enough "bottom" in the reds? Fix it. Dirty, yellowish clouds? Fix it.

I'll be leaving soon on another trip to Navajo land, in search of more magical landscape images, with Alain and Natalie Briot of http://beautiful-landscape.com

Finally, the print's the thing, in which you'll capture the conscience of the king.

Getting here apparently very late, Mike. Many keen and thought-provoking comments posted here.

First, I'd say that each of the three images you posted has strong qualities. But being a bit of a slut for mystery in images my favorite is the 3rd (iPhone 7) image. That point of light across the lake is like a (sci-fi) tractor beam for our attention, isn’t it? Who is it? What are they doing over there? Are they watching us, too? And that’s also a very powerful lesson for photographers of all ilks, but especially for landscapers.

One reason that your landscape images may often initially seem generally “good” is because they’re actually mementos of a much richer sensory experience. You’re not just looking at the picture; you’re remembering the sounds, the breeze, the scents, the temperature of that moment. As time passes those other memories usually fade leaving you only with that picture which might not stand on its own.

As an aside, I admit to being ambivalent about most landscape photography. Some years ago a then-prominent Internet photography celeb remarked, “Every time I see a pretty landscape I want to put something interesting in front of it.” That generally goes for me, too. So much of it offers nothing but relentless description of self-evidence and sentimentality, striving for nothing more than to be pretty and decorative. Landscapes are among the medium’s most timeless and widely-shot subjects. I’ve made a few myself. But I just don’t find them very interesting, regardless of tonality or sharpness, particularly in a day when I can instantly summon thousands of images of almost any place on Earth.

Still, like photography itself, landscape is a house with many rooms. Several years ago author and curator William Ewing conducted a survey of the increasingly varied practice of landscape photography and compiled it into a book: Landmark - The Fields of Landscape Photography. It's a wonderful collection of "landscape" samples from over 100 relatively contemporary photographers. Readers who feel stuck in a landscape rut might find some excellent inspiration in its pages.

I'm not a devoted landscape shooter myself (not practical for me, I live in the city, no car, no driver's license) but I consider myself an admirer of the genre. I find it to be one of the more challenging types of photography, exactly because of what you described, not because is difficult to execute in general, but how challenging is to create landscape photos that at the same time are moving, feel real, subtle and not overly cooked.
I was just looking at this photographer's portfolio yesterday, Cody Cobb, his first photo of "Cascadia" (the one with the two goats) is an example of the kind of Landscape that I would love to be able to make: https://www.codycobb.com/cascadia/

I seem to take better pics with my iPhone, due to the fact it's usually in my hand when the right light/situation presents itself.

I don't get all this existential angst and passion. I take a lotta pictures, of things that I care about, and some of them are good. The good ones stay up on my office walls or home bulletin board for varying lengths of time. A few for a long time. Especially kids. Or pictures by kids. None of them suck, they just have different lifetimes.


Sometimes I invite my wife or one of my grown sons to look at one of my photographs. I say, "May I show you a photograph?" I place the photograph in strong, direst light on the shelf of my darkroom sink. If they look at it for more than a second or two, I feel as though I have created a photograph that interests not only me, but also another. Bill

To me, landscape is the ultimate form of the "if you are not sure, then the answer is no" camp.
Personal interpretation seems to subordinate itself to others expectations more than other forms. Michael Kenna and others like can break those shackles better than most.

Great post. Great question.

Keep shooting. You'll get more critical.

An old trapper told me that nature doesn't give up its secret stuff easy. A lot of landscape photography is repetitive, which maybe says that he was right.

Paul Strand; "There is a valid moment for every cloud."

it's very difficult to elicit emotion with a landscape photograph
Who was it said that it's not hard to take an impressive landscape, but very hard indeed to take one that leaves an impression upon the viewer.

Lots of very wise comments here.

This is a fine discussion of the challenges of landscape photography, Mike - way to go! I've been working on a project in this vein for a year and a half now and am experiencing a lot of satisfaction with it, while knowing that many of my efforts constitute work in progress that may pay off with a great shot someday, just not yet. I am a believer in returning to a scene again and again and exploring it at different times of day and with different lenses, always keeping an eye out for what makes one picture in such a series stand out over time. It is never cheating to try again. No one needs to review my learning process once I've come up with a keeper.

One specific comment about your farmland pics: don't forget the visual tool of having something in the foreground. Often that near-far contrast can make for a nice pic. The shots I see in this post seem to be all middle-ground or middle-ground plus background, other than the one you like taken on the lake.

I go out usually once a week specifically to take landscape photos. Four times out of five I don't get any great shots but the fifth time I get plenty. I agree with Ken's comment about the light. Without interesting light I don't think you'll get good shots.
I also think you need the right place. You can be somewhere that's very nice to be, but that doesn't mean it will photograph well. You'll come home remembering the beautiful place but your photos will disappoint.
I try and improve my luck by planning - looking at the map, thinking about time of year, weather, and time of sunrise and sunset. Simply shooting when I just happen to be outside somewhere rarely produces the goods, though sometimes I've struck lucky.

Quality of light is everything. I think 85% of successful landscape photography is being at the right place at the right time and 15% of it is having the right technique. Knowing the weather forecast, what time is sunset/sunrise, what phase of the moon, the orientation of a valley etc. all contribute to that technique. My most successful landscapes are almost all the product of siege tactics - very rarely have I had a 'Moonrise, Hernandez' moment!

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