Terry, you do pose an interesting question regarding the relative merits of photography (read image-capture) as opposed to post-processing.
For what it is worth I regard both in-camera skill and post-processing skill as indispensable to the modern craft of photography.
However, the two are not interchangeable.
The term "workflow" so beloved in digital photography implies directionality.
The term "post-processing" also implies processing "after a prior event".
(I know that everyone reading this thread will be aware of the meaning of these definitions, however, in the context of the conversation they deserve highlighting.)
The camera has to be the start of the process (notwithstanding role of pre-visualisation and intent on the part of the photographer) and the skills of the photographer are at the fore.
In the last year or so I have had a lot of contact with individuals who shoot with equipment capable of shooting fantastic images who for several reasons are unable to produce noteworthy images. Sometimes the issue is an inability to control the exposure that the camera shoots at, sometimes an inability to compose an image, and not infrequently both issues are present.
Now, I am not casting aspersions at these individuals, since one one of my favourite sayings regarding photography is "It is easy to shoot rubbish, shooting well requires a bit more effort" and it was coined as a result of my own experiences with a camera.
I have only been shooting seriously for about eight years now.
Currently, in my Lightroom catalog, I only have a fraction of a percent of images shot in 2006, 2007, and 2008, remaining. Those deleted images were really not up to snuff. Since then the percentage of keepers has risen but the improvement has been hard won.
Currently, now that I have really good grip on the abilities of my equipment, any rubbish that I shoot is purely a result of my lack of attention to detail, poor shooting technique, or suboptimal framing.
Interestingly, recently on a trip to Botswana I happened to meet up with a Pro from Canada who had just finished leading an expedition to various locations in Namibia, and, who was in Botswana shooting for his own pleasure as well as scouting for future destinations for expeditions. We ended up shooting together for several days in the Okavango Delta. What was noteworthy was that we were shooting with very similar equipment and shooting essentially identical subject matter nearly all the time. Our ratio of noteworthy images shot to total captures was remarkably similar, but even more interesting was the differences in what we shot despite shooting with the same equipment and having the same shooting perspective. Comparing images we were equally impressed with the "moments" that the other had managed to capture. Nonetheless, only a few percent of the total images shot were top drawer and about 30% of the total images I shot on that entire trip were deleted the same day that they were shot. That percentage will climb too, once, in months to come, I review those images again. (I do appreciate that there are major differences between the bird and wildlife photography that we were engaged in compared to the, somewhat more reflective, process of landscape photography.)
As mentioned, I do value post-processing skills very highly, and most of my skills were developed trying, largely unsuccessfully, to turn poorly captured images into something passable. Currently, I find that if an image really does required extreme manipulation, it is really a reflection on the failure of my in-camera photographic skills. Much more usually, if I am struggling with an image in post-processing the problem has been what do to rather than anything tricky in the actual post-processing, once I have made up my mind what to do.
When I have a well captured image together with a solid idea of what needs to be done (revisualisation definitely plays a part) these days I can make an image really pop.
All my post-processing skills have been hard won. A lot of trial-and-error (mostly error) has been necessary to get a solid grip on the process. Experimentation has been absolutely key in the process. Sometimes, to even call what I was doing as "doodling", would not have been out of place.
Some may be feeling that this post is a bit longwinded but the mini-biography describing my own photographic journey incorporated several distinct stages that were dictated by my skills and abilities at the time. The equipment I shoot with has also influenced, at least to some degree, what has been possible. I remember been severely limited in my bird photography with a Canon 40D, despite having a Canon 500mm f4.0 and a tele-extender because of the noise issue when cranking up ISO. Focusing was also an issue. Fast forward to now, same lenses but now with a Canon 5D mark III ISO is essentially a non-issue in the range that I need, autofocus is a dream, and DR is much improved.
Nowadays, because I have a very good idea of what my camera/lens combination will produce, pre-visualisation is correspondingly much easier and the post-processing also becomes subsequently much easier. That was not always so.
In addition, despite the ability to pre-visualise, it not infrequently happens that once I have an image up on my monitor I find it telling me a much different story. In this regard I personally feel it is better to let the image communicate if you will rather than me imposing my preconceptions.
I went back to the post that stimulated this thread, and then subsequently to Daniel Hancock's website. In truth, he was playing around with that image because, it seems, he was getting to grips with a new version of HDR software. Having seen at least some his work I don't think that those images have come as a result of random doodling, either with a camera or post-processing software. However, I bet that sometime in his photographic journey he learn't an awful lot from doodling, both with camera and software.
As already alluded to, image making is a very personal process, and, the process of becoming a good image-maker is likewise a very personal one. I cannot be critical of anyone who engages in activities that will improve them as image-makers. The equipment we use, software included here, is rather sophisticated. Who amongst us completely understands, much less uses, every feature of their camera systems or software? The only way to learn those features is to play, to experiment.
However, it is VERY unlikely that many (any!) of us can consistently produce high quality images in a random "push button" type manner.
I am sure that most of us have had serendipitous experiences, particularly with camera in-hand, but also with post-processing software, that cannot be attributed to our skill. Nonetheless, these are the exception not the rule.
Merely, as suggested earlier, owning the best in camera equipment and software cannot substitute for ability and know-how. Consistent results mandate it. Monkeys randomly typing on typewriters have never managed to produce War and Peace. Yes!