I like them both and if I hadn’t viewed the two side by side I would like the 2nd one more. Because they are side by side I'm obligated to compare. What I like about the first one is the involvement in motion. What I like about the 2nd one is the mix between movement and color. I think the only thing that distracts on the 2nd one is just a tad or graininess. I find myself drawn to this and it takes away from the experience.
This brings to mind the concept of expectations – meaning what people want to see when looking at a photo. But I want to put that comment aside and instead say that it would be a great teaching aid for all it if the John would provide some insight into how he gets the delightfully soft appearing but knife edge sharp results in image after image.
Well thank you all. I do lean more to the left than the right. So maybe that's why you all like the left so much
For these water images, I simply looked at the rear screen and tried to decide which had too much blur and which not enough. Then I would reshoot and adjust the aperture accordingly. For my taste, too much blur is not good either. I finally found and applied the ND filter, which I had to hand hold, and that only gave me about 2-6 secs, depending in which direction I shot the rapids. If I have a secret at all, it is that I seldom sharpen my images, preferring the "soft" look of the original jpegs. I do not shoot RAW at all. The exception for sharpening is where they are soft in the extreme. I would say, because I did not use a polarizer (don't own a circular one), the images came out soft with a build up of moving water and skylight, and produced grayish white lines. Good for some images, not so good for others. Next time I will use a polarizer, because about 70% of my images came out very murky, like a glaze of milk almost. And because of the inherent high contrast of the rear camera screen, the images appeared fine to me in the field. Then I increase contrast in PP, it brings out the underlying colours, to some extent, while increasing the lines of the white and gray. The mix produced these wonderful painterly looking images. I might add, that the results were best with close up waves and rocks, rather the wide panoramic views of the river, which produced much more traditional looking soft rapids. But I won't forget the polarizer next time! And that too can be be overused, you don't want to eliminate all spectral light as that will produce flat looking results. Some people like those ultra real bold colours. But I use it sparingly, where the subject warrants.
I will add two more. Notice the one that looks very murky, almost like a whitewash on a painting; I would have preferred less blur or murkiness(?) Should have polarized a tad. The other is a simple increase in contrast, which allowed the underlying colours of the rocks and reflecting bank foliage colours to come through.
Hope that helps.