Stone Arch Bridge III (Evolution)
So the fun part about learning photography, for me at least, has been updating "old" photos I've taken and liked, but mis-processed. Case in point, this one, of the iconic Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis after a steady rain. The first attempt (below, in comments) was one of my first in Lightroom and I was enthralled with the idea of the saturated image; it's too saturated, with a heavy vignette. Also, the way I processed lost a lot of interesting detail in the clouds that you see in the third rendition.
The second was processed a few weeks later, when I got Photomatix and became similarly enthralled with the HDR look. The colors are more muted and I think the sky is improved, but too much emphasis is placed on the bridge, and some of the graininess in the way I had the camera set up is emphasized by blowing up the shadowy bridge.
Finally, the third rendition was processed in Photomatix (albeit minimally) and then in Topaz Adjust (with the lower half "masked" out to emphasize sky detail without making the lower half too grainy). It was then put through a more muted Lightroom process to bring out some of the color and to highlight the streaky bridge. I also removed the guy standing on the bridge and straightened and cropped. I deliberately kept the buildings darker, as I want the main focal points of the image to be the beautiful sky and the reflections on the bridge. You can still tell it's Minneapolis via the skyline, and there are some details in the shadow, but it's not the main subject of the image.
Long story long, I hope these three images show progress (I think/hope they do!). This whole photography thing has been very rewarding thus far, and I can't wait to take more shots like this!