What makes a great picture? (BTW, I wish I could take a great shot – not enough years left to get anywhere as accomplished as our own here…sigh.) I draw instead.
Over the years though, I have discovered there are some basic rules to the art. – No matter photography, watercolor, or drawing – same rules, different medium. Just to mention two here - Placement and Value.
For example, Mav writes:
Learning to put your focal point/subject matter in the upper or lower, left or right
third of your photo is something to keep in mind when composing, and even though this rule does not always apply, it does more often than not. Another mistake made
is putting the subject matter dead center(which you did with the creek) or placing
the horizon, or the far end of a lake in the center of the photo thereby cutting the
photo in half.
In drawing classes we are taught this as “the rule of thirds”. Dividing your picture into an imaginary tic-tac-toe grid and placing your “Center of Attention” on any of the four x-points usually works best. As for where to put the horizon – never in the exact middle. The middle forces the viewer to make unconscious choice – one side or the other – top or bottom - essentially driving the eye of the viewer off the picture.
Value is another aspect of art most often overlooked. In my classes, I teach ~25% dark, ~25% light, and 50% middle values but these ratios can be varied ...maybe 50% darkest - etc.
I see this not so much as busy but lacking in that it only shows one limited value throughout the picture. There are no contrasts – no darks – no lights…nothing stands out by itself. In short, there is no Center of Attention. You need the contrast – a dark value next to a light value to make something in the scene “pop”. You get to/must decide on something to center the viewer's attention on! An old art professor once told me that it is the duty of the artist to make something in the scene the star... Placement and Value.
BTW, The Hetch Hetchy trail/ black and white shot works well value-wise, also excellent on rule of thirds too – nice.