There are obviously exceptions to every rule, but ultimately, when you look at a photo, you are trying very quickly to find the subject and understand the purpose and the photographer's intentions. Every photograph was taken for a reason after all.
No so long ago, I used to shoot everything with the smallest aperture I could get away with because I misguidedly thought that the greater the depth of field (the amount which is in focus), the better the image. So with my tripod I would shoot everything in F/22. Perhaps I saw this as a bit of a lazy shortcut, so that I didn't need to worry about where my point of focus was.
Now I am starting to realise that in addition to considering the rules of composition, I need to make a creative decision on how to emphasise what I think is the most important element in the scene (i.e. the subject). Ways I see of doing this in landscape photography are:
- Use as wide an aperture as possible to acceptably focus the subject and throw the background, or the foreground, out of focus. This can create some wonderful bokeh effects.
- Move around the subject to shift distracting elements, e.g. foreground twigs, out of the frame. Also note how objects move in relation to one another as you change position.
- Look for a neutral uncluttered background, e.g. a blue sky, grass, or a plain wall. Consider shooting upwards from a low position as this will help remove distractions at ground level. It will also provide a view which the average person standing up would never see.
- Zoom in, or move in close to the subject.
- Make sure the subject is well lit.
- Check that nothing else which may compete for attention in is focus, e.g. an item of strong or contasting colour.
In post-production consider blurring, darkening, lightening or cropping elements which distract from the subject. It is better however to achieve this in camera, by considering the composition and depth of field.
Simplicity is a good thing. I have no doubt that it often takes more effort to create a great "simple" photograph than a shot which appears to be complex.
(Finally, obviously everyone has their own ideas, and I am not, by any means, suggesting that my views are more valid than anyone else's ).
Here are a few good examples of what I regard as simplicity: