It comes at the expense of time, trying, failing and using that knowledge to make that next image even better, it is slow and progress is not something you instantly feel, but you will absolutely see it if you compare earlier images with the last ones you took.
I can with confidence say that I have pretty much done all of the common mistakes when it comes to landscape photography, but with the same confidence I can also say that I would not be the same photographer today if I have not made them and learned from it.
So lets dive into it. :)
It is not just getting into thinking in photography terms, also the conditions may just worsen faster than you think and your first shot can be the shot that has the best light.
I have quite a few of my very first shots being the ones that has turned out best, all I am thinking about is what looks good to me right on the spot, I am not worrying about much else than just getting that first image stored, it kinda frees me up from any technical thinking.
It may not be an image you will ever use, or it may just be the best image you have ever taken.
If you just slam your tripod down, shot a single shot and move on, I can pretty much guarantee you have not found the best composition for the scene, you just may, but those odds are extremely slim.
Take out your camera, look through the viewfinder as you move around, check different angles, take a few steps left, right, back or forward and once you start to lock onto something that looks good you know you are very close.
The key being what looks good, it is what you think looks good that matters, not what any other photographer thinks, follow your heart and gut instincts and trust in that, over time you will become better and better at it.
Symetry and balance might suit one image perfectly while not working at all for the next, hence the most important compositional rule is that it feels and looks good to you as a photographer.
If you are able to apply the rule of thirds, use odd numbers, have leading lines, repetition and so forth to enhance what you already think looks good then you absolutely should try to do so.
There are a lot of different "rules" to composition, I would strongly suggest looking it up, I am merely hinting to it here, you can find tons of resources and videos covering compositons, so I am not going to further into it here.
Too far to the right and you will overexpose the brightest part of your image making it impossible to recover, .
What I mean by shooting to the right is get as close to the right part of your histogram without overexposing your image, doing so means you can in many cases get away with a single image despite the light levels having a high dynamic range.
Ïf you look at the histogram in the middle of the image above you can see it is extremely close to the right side, but yet not overexposed, which means I can completely recover the sky and I have a lot of shadow details to work with, in fact in this particular case I can get details across the board of the entire image, even in the absolute darkest part.
But keep this in mind, although shooting-to-the-right is a powerful method, correctly exposed will always be more saturated and contrasty, if you are into HDR and have some skills blending I would certainly suggest correctly exposing every part of your image for maximum result.
Physically look through the viewfined, place your thumb/finger/hand infront of the sun, open both images later in photoshop in layers, apply a layer mask to the image with your hand in it and just brush in the areas you have lens flare to instantly remove it.
There are purist out there that claim that as soon as you click the shutter button the image is taken, and you should not do anything to it, I could not disagree more.
There is nothing natural with a lens flare, we sure as shit don´t see lens flare with our eyes, so I see nothing wrong with applying this technique to get an image to look the way we see it/want.
For artistic purposes it is a whole different story, some lenses are legendary for the way flare are rendered, like the Canon 16-35, that one on F16-22 and those stunning sun rays will really add to your image.
Connect some of the dots and let the viewer decide on the rest and you have a great recipe for an image that will resonate well.
If your image trigger and emotion with the viewer, makes them ask questions or just have to look at your image one more time your image works and you have something more than just a picture.
A story can be everything from "What a beautiful sunrise" to "Who the h... went bananas with an axe here", but that little something extra goes a long way.
For my own images, I have to feel that connection to both the places I shoot and the images I take, if I don´t the images just feels empty.
While landscape photography in it´s essence is more about the beauty this world has to offer and less about the photojournalistic approach, it never hurts to bring it a little something from other photographic genres.
Experimenting, in all things photography will open new doors and make it easier to navigate that path to where you find your own way of doing things.
Maybe something will look awesome with a shallow depth of field (f/1.4) or perhaps something will look really cool with a long exposure and you slowly moving the camera down.
I don´t shoot for anyone else than myself, I can take liberties in my approach, altering colors a bit in my photos to add to the mood, removing things like powerlines, distant houses and such I have no reservations against..
If for instance National Geographic (never happening, but nice to dream a little :) ) asked me to accurately depict and area, I would approach it in an entirely different way, my images would be pretty much finished straight out of the camera, with RAW I would of course add some contrast, sharpening and slight dodging and burning.
But don´t forget to experiment in your photography, if HDR is something you have never tried before, though it is a well known and used technique, to you that would be experimenting, so get out, shoot and find your way.