When photographing a landscape, colors and details can make a normal landscape a glorious photo. There's so many things to consider when looking for that perfect emotion you are looking to portray in an image. Often times it requires you the photographer to return to a location multiple times in a year, waiting... waiting and waiting for the right time.
It's very hard to just stumble upon scenery you often see in fine art, every once and a while we win the lottery and find it. But as a photographer who has been chasing the light in landscapes for a few years now, I am realistic that you often don't find that perfect shot the very first time. Even if you plan to be in the scene on the magical "Golden Hour", there's so many other factors to consider.
Clouds, composition, wildlife, sun position and time of day have to be what your are expecting for that scene. Clouds alone vary from day to day, and the type of clouds will even give you different colors. Sometimes golden, reflecting the golden rays from the sun. Other times a red and magenta flair as the density and type of cloud absorbs the rays of light and reflect a reddish tint.
If you are looking to add that dramatic look it will also depend on the amount of cloud, sometimes too much and it overpowers your scene. Other times too flat and it looks just too bland with no character. As a landscape photographer, patience and a love of what mother nature will give you today is what keeps you going. Enjoying the timeless, pieces of light and tranquility you have around you.
Water is another element that is always a go to feature of landscape photography and this is also another element that will give you different mixes of complexity. Days where the wind is still you get those perfect reflections, days where its windy you get rough but beautiful motion blur or splashes to your scene. Or days where its in between and just a constant water tread.
With all these factors, landscape photography requires a different level of patience than other types of photography. Nature is definitely not a controlled environment like a studio would be. In a studio, you can control the amount of light, the angles of the light the subject and basically anything you want to capture. Definitely not the case with landscape photography. There is just so many variables to consider that there are days you pack your bag and call it a day without any spectacular shots. But that is ok! Tomorrow is another day and just enjoy nature at its best. For you to capture the essence of the location, my advice is to sit and spend a few quite moments to just aware of everything around you. It might give you a different perspective of the landscape than rushing to a spot and taking a shot.
The amazing thing is when you finally get that special moment, it feels incredible. It's just like a moment that has culminated from all your patience and you begin to appreciate why those days of waiting made this much more special. Nature has a way of giving you something special in ways you don't even think are possible. Photography is never about the quick hit, instant gratification, although we all wish that was the case. It about the journey to how you got to that moment and the stories that build it. A photograph would not have meaning if there is no story that you can tell of how the moment was captured.
Social media of today has made photography a like and swipe process. Often times just looking at the picture, liking and moving on. As a result this has become a way of photography, but we really need to slow down at times and appreciate the meaning of what's in front of you. As you do, you will change a good shot to a great and spectacular shot that you can be proud of.