I've linked to a series of images to illustrate my question, which is this.
Do I need a change in technique perhaps or is there some method to solve my madness - or am I just looking at things wrong? - or god forbid - is there a potential mechanical limitation that I have to learn to overcome?
First of all - it's a rebel XS with the kit lens. The lens seems (to me) to be very sharp when capturing close objects but seems rather soft on landscapes or larger areas. For example - when I use a narrow DOF and focus on an object within a few inches to a few feet of the lens - The AF seems very accurate, and I consider the picture to be rather sharp. No front or back focus issues to my eyes. However, when I try to capture a building/object more than 20 feet away, or a larger landscape - it seems overall to be a much more soft and/or out of focus image. I did not focus and recompose for any of them.
My usual settings are to use center focus point, partial metering, and I always half-press at least twice to better lock in the AF.
all pictures are jpegs straight out of the cam.
The first 2 pics are an example of the focus closeup
the next are examples of longer shots that to me seem just plain soft
the last two are ones I shot with a tripod using contrast AF first, then live view I know the one is way overexposed - I was going for the moving water look, but it was just too bright out. The main thing is that even at the narrow aperture - it seems to me much sharper than the first. same rock was used to focus.