The thing that was always more baffling to me, was why the away teams (in this super advanced 24th century of theirs) never took along a freakin camera and transmitted what they were seeing to the Enterprise. Instead of having to give Picard some vague and not very helpful verbal description all the time.
The closest they ever got was Geordi's crazy kaleidescope vision in the first season, and that was more for kicks than anything else.
Or why not just beam down some sort of probe/camera before sending any people down. They could get some idea of what they were heading into.
They generally use the ship's sensors to do that.