First, a word about Robert Frost. He spoke to a group of us at college, reading some of his poems. After reading about the stone wall, a student expressed her love of the poem and did he mean it to be this message of life as she interpreted it?
Her description of the meaning of the wall was quite extensive. When she finished, he thanked her, but said that his poem was just written about a wall!
Now, a note about "emotion" and photographs. When we take a photo of a beautiful landscape, we are surrounded not only by the light, but sounds and colors, and winds and all that our eyes can take in. We are filled with the emotion of the outdoors and our surroundings and the efforts perhaps expended to get to that point. But, can someone viewing that photo share or "feel" that same emotion?
What we see is a photo on a flat page, maybe on a computer in the kitchen. Where is the emotion? Is the photo strong enough to convey the emotion of the photographer? How can it do that? That is where composition plays its role.
I see lots of good elements of composition in the photo of Owen's Valley. The position and shape of the trees, the strong foreground, the interesting background of mountains. This is a successful photo.
But, what about a "muted beauty in a slightly saddening environment"? I definitely see a muted beauty, but a saddened environment? Where does that come from? I have never heard of Owen's Valley or California water shortages that might be involved. I had no emotion of sadness.
Beware of adding your own emotions into a photograph. For example, I could show you a photo of some beautiful snow capped peaks. Oh um...but they mean a lot more to me. I had hiked over them to get where i was to take the photo. I felt the old emotions come back when I look at them now in a photo album. Can I expect you to have the same emotion...of course, not.
There are photos that work, however. Hopefully we have all seen them from the work of the photojournalists, many, unfortunately from war zones, but so many others from the streets and back roads of our towns and neighborhoods. And, I have seen plenty of 'wow' photos on websites like these.