The key to a good photograph is its composition. You can get everything else spot on, but if the image doesn’t have cohesion, doesn’t draw you into the view, doesn’t gel, then there is nothing you can do to it to make it work, except try again.
So, how do you get a good composition? That’s a bit like asking “how do you write the perfect novel?”. There are formulaic “rules” you can follow to improve your composition such as the “rule of thirds”, but there is nothing like the experience gained from taking photographs over many years and working out yourself what works. That is what works for you – all photographers develop their own style and what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. Deliberately placing your subject on the third intersection for every picture you take (search the internet for “rule of thirds” if you aren’t already familiar with this) may improve your images to a point, but it won’t help you to develop your own style and method of expressing your empathy with the landscape.
Saying that, I think there are some key lessons that can be learnt on how good images can be structured:
If you have too much information (points of interest, or just general “stuff”), then the eye doesn’t know what to look at, wanders aimlessly around the image and then gives up and finds something better to look at.
As well as moving around a location to find the best viewpoint, this can also include “gardening”, or tidying up the foreground. Then you have your camera on a tripod, spend some time looking around the whole frame, identify any dead twigs / sheep poo / etc. which will distract from your final image, and tidy up if necessary.
2) Foreground interest
Having foreground interest is often the making of an image. How many times have you stood at a viewpoint looking at a fantastic view, taken a photograph, seen the results and they in no way live up to the experience of seeing it with your own eyes? Usually the problem is the lack of foreground to give the image a sense of scale. Combining this with the need to have an uncluttered foreground is where the search for the perfect viewpoint comes in.
3) Lead-in lines
Leading the eye into the image by having a feature (wall, river, bank of clouds, anything really) running from the corner of the image into the view helps the eye to know what it is looking at and dramatically improves a picture.
4) Avoid breaking the horizon
Objects (usually trees) breaking the horizon can spoil a good image. If you can, raise your viewpoint to avoid this happening.
The two images below show the difference this can make:
5) “Rule of Thirds”
There is plenty of information already on the internet about this so I won’t repeat it all here, but placing the objects of interest on a third intersection can improve your composition.
Certainly the placement of the horizon a third or two thirds down the image is usually better than in the centre and points of interest should almost never be in the middle of the image.
Rules are all meant for breaking though, so just keep trying. Critically acclaim your images when you get back (or preferably at a later date), work out what works and what doesn’t, try again.