Just got back from a week in my favorite place... Rocky Mountain National Park.
I did a couple of things in an effort to get the best possible shots.
1. I used early morning light. Sunrise came at 5:30am. A couple of times I got to my photography location at 5am - and was able to get the very best of the early morning light. I even got to see a bear and two cubs. No pictures of her however, I really didn't want to get all that close.
2. Tripod - wherever possible, I tried to use my tripod for the most stable shooting platform possible. Besides, if a bear comes along, your tripod can be used to beat the bear (just kidding!)
3. Mirror lockup - At times, I used the mirror-lockup on my Rebel Xti. Here's what I do. I set the mirror lock up to be active. I then set the shutter to self-timer. When I press the shutter, the mirror locks up, and then the camera sits for 2 seconds, then the shutter releases, and the mirror closes. This 2 second delay gives plenty of time for stray vibrations to shut down. Fewer vibrations - sharper picture.
4. Sharp aperture. Most lenses are their sharpest around f/8 to f/11 or so. Pushing the aperture to f/22 (in my opinion) results in a photo that is not quite as sharp. Usually f/11 is maximum sharpness and gives a very suitable depth of field.
5. Hyper-focal technique. I'm not sure this is quite the right name for it, but it works like this. My lens is a 24-105mm L lens. I set the zoom at 24mm - the widest angle possible. Of course, with my 1.6 crop factor - its not as wide as I would like - but this is the best I can currently do. Then, I set the aperture to f/16 or sometimes f/22 (in slight violation of point #4 above). Then, I set my focus manually to the right distance on my focusing ring. For f/16 I set it to about 9 feet. Everything from half that distance (4.5 feet) to infinity will be in focus. If I really need to get even more depth of field and I'm willing to trade some sharpness, I set it to f/22 and manually set my focus to about 5 feet. Everything from 2.5 feet to infinity will be in focus. This allows me to get some nice foreground objects (water, stream, flowers, etc.) in focus while keeping distant mountains in focus.
6. Take lots of pictures. Over 6 days or so of shooting, I probably took 1500-2000 photos. Some can immediately be seen to be poor. Some can immediately be seen to be pretty good. The remainder require time and processing. The represent my backlog. I'll go back and work on those during those times when I can't be shooting with my camera. I think to think of it as my pending backlog of photos.
7. Print a few for personal enjoyment. We should not forget that we not only need to sell some photos for stock purposes but we need to enjoy our photos. I chose to upload one of my photos to Sam's Club and have it enlarged to 20x30 inches. I wasn't sure my 10.1 mp would hold up to such an enlargement - but it did. It looked really good - hardly any grain noticeable even at that size. Besides, it only cost me $12.
8. ISO 100 - of course, always shoot at a low ISO speed when possible. But, most important - get the shot - whatever it takes. If it requires ISO 400 - get the shot. You can always work on it later when the the weather is bad.
9. White balance - always try to get the white balance just right. A white or gray card can be helpful. If you're shooting under fairly sunny skies, the camera is likely to get pretty close and you can adjust in post-processing.
10. HDR techniques - I don't always shoot three bracketed exposures, but when I do I can usually get some nice dynamic range with an HDR tool. I use www.easyhdr.com - which I find to be useful and easy to work with. But even when I shoot only one RAW picture, there's usually enough data in the one RAW shot to get some enhanced dynamic range using the HDR tool (running it in LDR mode).
Here's a few of my approved images. Of course, the key question is whether they will function as stock images. I'd like to think somebody out there needs images of mountains for a new website, article, brochure, etc.... perhaps they'll find mine.