Sorry, but I strongly disagree that there is anything wrong with the composition of either picture. Both work for me.
In my experience it's extremely difficult to judge complex images from little jpegs; images that work superbly as A2 prints are often totally eviscerated when chopped down to 800x600 pixels. Best I can tell the "problem" with the first image is that the contrasts within any given region of the scene are lost due to the size reduction, giving a false impression of overall blandness.
Assuming, given all that's going on in these pictures, that there is enough detail in the image files to support your chosen print size and that your sharpening is on the subtle side, I would be surprised if both do not make prints I'd very much enjoy looking at time and again.
Matthew Cromer wrote:
You're doing just fine with some tough subjects to photograph.
OK - the original poster has responded with nice spirit as I'm writing this, but I'll still add the following for others who may be following along:
A bit of (doubtless unwanted) advice to novice artists from someone who's been deeply involved in the arts for most of the past 60 years: You're going to get yourself into a lot of trouble if you start changing your work for any reason short of your own eye and heart. For every 10 people who hate what you're doing you're going to find 10 more who are lukewarm about it and 10 more who love it. Input from all quarters is fascinating, but trying to please all camps is a task to make the labours of Sisyphus seem like a stroll in the proverbial park.
If you could have hung around the coffee shops of Paris a hundred and thirty years ago (a bit before even my time), you would have heard artists like Monet, Renoir, Pizarro, etc. vehemently arguing over each other's output. I'm sure that according to Monet, the latest Renoir was often total trash and vice versa ... yet these are all paintings that now happily hang on museum walls. (Of course it's sad they didn't have high megapixel colour digital cameras in those days, but they did the best they could with the primitive technology at hand.)