The cane fields near Haaliimaile are known for their strong winds. I have, however, always been captivated by this view looking up toward Makawao through the cane. So, one fall day, a friend of mine set out to paint this scene en plein air. Two days and a few studies later, I had enough visual information to begin this studio piece of the same view.
Once you have taken the time to work in the field, translating this visual information to a larger piece is in hand. You already know your way around the composition, and because you have actually experienced the scene up close and personal, this thread will carry through to your studio piece.
The challenge in working strictly from photos, is avoiding a stiff and/or unnatural feeling in the subject or scene. Photos do not accurately measure the quality of light, they flatten out and darken shadows and they distort the picture plane. How many times have you been on vacation and taken a photo of a beautiful scene only to return home and try to explain how marvelous it was to a friend? The photo doesn't quite capture the scene the way you remembered it.
Working from a small study is therefore, and invaluable way to bring your visual color notes back from a painting session and apply them to a larger work.