Some images, landscape or otherwise, can be shot in the moment, while others need some preparation. Shooting this photograph, that was chosen as #1 image in the Best of the World (2015) category of National Geographic, took some preparation.
I had visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi midday, on a day off from our VR production. Having visited the place, I soon saw an image in my mind and realised I had to return in the evening to be able shoot it. Scouting properly beforehand can help tremendously with the process of creating images.
Before I went back to shoot the image, I tried to find the exact right spot and angle for the picture I wanted to make (I write make instead of take, because I see photography as an art form and making acknowledges this more than the word taking, albeit being grammatically incorrect). I had an idea of what the light and colours would be in the evening/at night and decided (as well as I could) beforehand what my camera settings would be.
Before Blue Hour arrived (the moment between sunset and (solar) night), I returned to the designated sight to set up my tripod and camera, and try and get the image I wanted. Because I had decided on most things beforehand and arrived early, I could thoroughly enjoy the moment of being there, without being distracted too much about what settings to use. This way, it only took me three shots to get the image that I was after.
In general you want to shoot with as low an ISO as possible. For this image I used the base ISO of my camera, which was 100. I shot it on a 50mm lens and set the aperture at 11 (which I decided on beforehand). All that was left to do now was setting the White Balance accordingly (also more or less decided on beforehand) and the shutter speed, which for this particular shot was set at 11 seconds. For obvious reasons, the image was shot in RAW so that the full dynamic range of the image could be retained and any editing the image might need would not 'destroy' the image quality, which is something a JPEG would do in most cases.
When you prepare properly for shooting these kinds of images, often you hardly have to do any editing at all (unless you want to/it's part of your process as an artist, of course). All I did here was work a little bit with selective colour, highlights, shadows and lens correction in Adobe Lightroom Classic.
Sometimes, when shooting landscapes or cityscapes for instance, it can really pay off when you try and think things through beforehand, both creatively and technically. Creatively; What should your image say? What should it look & feel like? After deciding on that, you can look for the technical aspects of the image. What do you need to do and what gear do you need, to achieve the look & feel for this image that you want to create?
Once you've done this, you can return to the location later, at the best time of day, in terms of light and colours, to actually create the image you're going for. Some images can literary take years to plan and shoot and get just right, especially since you can't control the weather, etc.
Don't let yourself get discouraged by this. It's all a process and you'll be shooting many more great photos along the way.
Happy shooting, always!