It is often said: “shooting in manual mode lets you control your camera” – as if you cannot control the camera in aperture priority or shutter speed priority and your camera’s light meter suddenly measures several stops of light wrong. Yes, it is true you “lock down” your settings in manual. However, what you really want to control is your exposure and you control that one just as much in aperture priority. Let us say you want a neutral exposure of 0, you want to shoot at ISO 100 and at f/11 , then your shutter speed can only be whatever the light meter tells you. If there is no specific reason for compensating for your exposure, then the shutter speed is what it is, and that is independent of what mode you are photographing in.
I have learned is that photography is not really technically hard. Yes, a few basics will help you on your way, such as the exposure triangle. However, learning about T-stops, the math behind f-stops, ISO invariance, how camera processors work, etc. does not really influence the final photo. You only need to know what you need to know to create the final photo.
Google Earth has already mapped and technically photographed everything on Earth, but obviously, many of my local landscape photography spots has never been “landscape photographed.” However, that is not the important part. The important part is that I have not photographed many of the different locations; I have not experienced and enjoyed working at those locations, not to mention I also enjoy returning to them. Whether you enjoy photographing landscape icons or not, the “everything has already been photographed” mantra does not really make any sense.
Golden hour can deliver some gorgeous photos, but so can blue hour, stormy days, or flat, overcast skies. The optimal lighting conditions depend more on the scene and your vision. I really like moody and dramatic photos, so going out during a storm or photographing during a shower is obviously more optimal than orange sunset colors. In the below example, I wanted to show the lines in the cliff. I would argue the golden sunset light works against me, and I would probably have benefited from some clouds in the sky.