At Andrew's (sanfairyanne) request, I will provide the steps I took in getting to my version of his image. But before the how, I usually like to explain the why.
I agree with Lou's and Armand's comments. I also prefer the semi-pro's version for the similar reasons they do. The crucial differences are: 1. better light 2. use of a polarizer 3. different focal length and/or different standpoint 4. rule of thirds composition
It all boils down to the foreground in Andrew's image dominating it, instead of the mountains. The slight difference in perspective, coupled with positioning of the tree line roughly in the middle (instead into the lower third), HDR's color/contrast-mudding and a too bright foreground all contributed to the mountains playing the background to the foreground (pardon the pun), instead of being the center of interest.
The use of a polarizer: nothing wrong with using it full-strength on tele lenses. The uneven sky is typically a problem with ultra-wide lenses, i.e., wider than 28mm. Nothing wrong with a deep, dark, almost black sky, especially at those altitudes. One thing often overlooked when using a polarizer is that it acts as a natural fill-light (i.e., opens shadows). Hence using it kills two birds with one stone: you get a dramatic sky and a natural-looking shadows (no need for the dreaded HDR).
So, in light of the above, I did the following in Lightroom (no HDR though):
- cropped the bottom a bit to make the foreground less dominant and more within the lower third
- darkened the foreground with a graduated filter to further visually diminish its influence (minus 1.25 f/stop)
- used Recovery to prevent snowy highlights from blowing out
- opened up shadows just a bit (+10)
- used Punch preset (Clarity +50, Vibrance +25)
- used Vignette to frame and focus attention (-25/25, Amount/Midpoint)
- the most dramatic change is in the HSL panel, with the Blue +20/+40/-100 (Hue/Saturation/Luminance), done to mimic the use of a polarizer
- this turned the clouds a bit more bluish than desired, so I used a White Balance eyedropper to bring the clouds more toward neutral
Again, given that I was playing with a small jpeg, the numeric values and impact will likely be different when working with RAW, and the final result undoubtably better.
Did I go too far? Perhaps. Apart from the obvious that I did not want to spend too much time on someone else's photograph, my main idea was to demonstrate the possibilities, rather than seek perfection or universal approval. When/if Andrew decides to play with his RAW files, he will ultimately decide how far he is ready to go.