When I look at Ansel Adams' Clearing Winter storm I think "Wow, nice background!"
When I look at Ansel Adams portrait of Georgia O'Keeffe and Orville Cox I just think "Wow!"
Yeah, the subject matter is different. But, as truly good and really honestly special as the former is, it is still very much like looking out a window. The latter really gives me something to look at.
Lest you think it is purely a bias toward portraits, http://www.flickr.com/photos/vishal_mathur/2802653820/ That shot gives me something to look at and keeps my attention better than Clearing Winter Storm. As does this http://www.flickr.com/photos/8703006...in/photostream
For a photo to keep me interested, it has to give me something specific to look at or I lose interest.
Similarly, when someone says "Wow, you really nailed the focus/exposure/made a great print." It is a compliment about my skill with my tools and I do appreciate those comments. When someone says "wow great shot" and they ignore the print quality I feel I have done much better.