I love my wide angle lens. In fact when I first considered swapping to digital (and at that time there were only crop dSLRs) I was worried about losing my widest angle so I bought an extra lens as well.
Here you can see what the wide angle does so well. Gives a sense of depth. All the way from the foreground rocks to the background mountains it's so clear and crisp that you feel like you're actually there.
Used well in landscape photography wide angle lenses really enhance this feeling of space (when held horizontally) and depth (when held vertically). But there's a couple of things you need to do to maximise this impression.
The first thing is that you need to have 3 important elements - a foreground, a middle ground and a background. In other words you have to get up close to something so that it's nice and close to the camera.
Hence the problem with a lot of images taken with wide angle lenses from famous lookouts. Often there's no foreground. Why? Because often the thing closest to the lens is a crummy car park full of rubbish! So you tend to take that wide angle lens and focus it out on the horizon. Bad move.
To use a wide angle lens effectively you really do need to get down low and up close and personal with something. Otherwise you'll end up with just a middle ground and background. And what's the problem with that?
The farther something is from a wide angle lens the smaller it looks. Look at those mountains there. Sure they're higher than everything else but they don't appear very big in the frame. How many lookout photos of really big mountains do you have where you've used a wide angle lens and the mountains look really small. Wide angle lenses are not the way to make distant objects look big.
So here you can see we've got the rocks and river in the foreground, leading the eye to the lower slopes in the middle ground and then up to the peaks in the background. All three elements leading your eye through the whole frame. Because the river is closest to the lens it appears largest and most prominent in the frame. But by having the three 'grounds' you end up looking at everything.
The other good thing about wide angle lenses is they have an inherently big depth of field. So just by closing down your aperture a bit everything is razor sharp and clear, which is just what you usually want in sweeping vista images.
Tomorrow I'll pull out a different wide angle shot and show you some other uses for this handy lens.