If I was just starting out as a landscape photographer—just picked up a camera for the first time—and wanted to learn how to take great nature photographs, this is the process that I would follow:
(1) First, I would take a basic class through the local Community College; they are usually very thorough AND very inexpensive, and offer a lot of flexibility in terms of scheduling. That class would be labeled “Photography 101” or “Introduction to Digital Photography”, or something similar.
(2) Once I had a good grasp of the basics I would look for people who are shooting photos in a style that I want to mimic AND who are teaching classes or workshops. I wouldn’t waste my time and money learning from photographers who are not taking photographs that are AMAZING. I can teach myself how to take mediocre photos, right? I want to be the best that I can be, so I need to learn from the best. I would find these photographers by doing a Google search (“nature photographers”) and looking through the ads in photography magazines.
(3) I would also study independently: I would read books & articles, study composition by looking at photos and paintings, and peruse the internet for sites such as these:
(a) The Luminous Landscape is loaded with great essays, tutorials, etc, and they are always adding new information by great photographers: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/index.shtml
(b) My friend, Alain Briot, has several essays, tutorials, books, DVD’s, etc. Sign up for his newsletter and receive 40 essays for free: www.beautiful-landscape.com
(c) One of my favorite photographers, Patrick Smith, has a bunch of photos on Flickr. Learn how he captured them by first clicking on the individual photos to enlarge them, then putting the cursor on top of the photo to bring out the notes, and finally by scrolling down the page to read the narrative and technical stuff. Here's the website: http://www.flickr.com/photos/patrick-smith-photography/with/2805568891/
(4) Almost every community has a photography club; I would find the nearest one to me and join it so that I could spend time with people who are passionate and knowledgeable...and who are willing to share that knowledge.
(5) I would always have my camera with me and I would shoot a ridiculous number of images of everything that caught my eye. I would have a small notebook with my gear and write down all of the technical info as I photographed (f-stop, ISO, time of day, handheld vs tripod, etc), and then use that information to figure out why certain processes did or did not work. I would also constantly strive to improve the composition.
(6) I would almost always use a tripod!
So, to recap, my advice is to (1) take a basic class, (2) THEN take workshops or classes to learn from photographers that you respect and want to emulate, (3) study independently, (4) join a local photo club, (5) shoot tons of photographs, and (6) slow down and use a tripod!
That’s how I would do it!
I would love to answer any questions that you may have, or hear your thoughts on anything that I might have missed. You can do this by sending me an email through the “Contact” page on this website.