Stop, Look and Listen
Photography is generally considered a visual art form, but that shouldn't be interpreted as a limitation on your use of other senses.
You look through the viewfinder and press the shutter release. To appreciate the results, a viewer, too, has to look. Both photographer and viewer may engage in their tasks with varying degrees of purpose and seriousness, but the process is still unavoidably visual in nature. The very word "photography" is said to derive from the Greek for "painting with light."
But to me, this seems unnecessarily limiting. While this visual constraint may be inherent in the medium, you needn't think of it as limiting the message. As such, it shouldn't place any bounds on how you approach your task as photographer either.
A good image connects with a viewer to the degree the photographer connected with his subject. This is no doubt an over generalization, but there is does seem to be a correlation of some sort. Photograph your subject as a casual observer and your subject can appear as if held at arm's length. Allow yourself to become more intimately engaged with your subject and the gap between photographer and viewer will become less of a barrier.
When you find an area that seems to have potential, don't rush to start shooting. Take some time to get acclimated to your surroundings. If you find yourself without much time because the sun is already setting or rising, do what you need to do, but make a note to arrive earlier next time. If you grab your camera too quickly, you will tend to capture only the most obvious of compositions. If you slow down and settle in a bit before shooting, you can improve your odds of noticing details others may have missed that you can use to create more personal images.
Stop and relax. Find a place to sit down and feel the warmth (or cold, this time of year) begin to influence you. Get comfortable. Engage your senses. Explore what they are telling you. We all know that the end result will be a visual image, but let your other senses have their say too.
What do you hear? If there's a small stream nearby, you may be able to hear it, even it not on your map. If you were in too much of a hurry, you might have missed it entirely. If the wind is rustling the leaves, there may be a clearing that provides an opening both for the breeze and the sun. Photography may be painting with light, but there's no reason why your ears can't help you to seek out the best light.
You should feel as if you are part of the landscape, not merely an observer of it. Start by getting acquainted with your surroundings. At some point, you will probably find things that seem worthy of further exploration. When I think I may be on to something, I kind of use my thumbs and fingers to consider framing possibilities, separating what I'm drawn to from what surrounds it. When I find I want something more precise, it's time for the camera and a lens that approximates the field of view I'm considering. At some point, the progression from scouting for images to photographing them will naturally occur if the situation warrants. This is when your creative side can really come to the fore.
Image making should be an expression of your explorations. Sometimes you have to feel your way.