As we say in photography over and over: It's all about the light. A few posts back I was talking about when to photograph landscapes. In a nutshell, I mentioned that it is generally best just after sunrise and just before sunset (with of course many exceptions). I was rummaging through some photographs from a family trip last year and had a sequence of photographs that emphasized just how short that "magic light" period really is.
The two photographs attached are taken only 30 minutes apart. They are of the same mountains in the Sedona area, just a different crop and angle as I was making my way up "Bell Rock". The one taken first, the sky barely retains any detail, shadows are strong (too dark) compared to the red rock. Speaking of the "Red Rocks", they do not really look to red, rather a pale orange thing. Not a very effective image.
The second one taken a mere 30 minutes later, has deep colours, the sky (although lacking in some drama due to only a few low lying clouds) has detail. The foreground, although in complete shadow, doesn't appear as deep and contrasts favourable against the red rocks.
So the next time you see before you a great scenery and it still an hour or two before sunset, do yourself a favour and make sure you see it (and photograph it) as the sun sets. It will most likely go from great to amazing.
Some notes, both images taken with Panasonic GF1, hand held using a 17mm f1.7 kit lens. This combination cost me around $700. The images are good enough for 13"x19" print. The newer model is even better. I use this combo when on family trips - it's much more practical that using my DSLRs and the big lenses that go with them. So what I'm essentially saying is that you don't need to spend $$$ - even point and shoots should be able to get images like this without much fuss as long as you wait for the right light.