Interesting I was going to say 1,2 & 4 aren't doing much for me, and 3 would look good as an HDR. I'm not a huge fan of HDR. But the only way to capture what you were after *which I might add was a good eye (The beautiful twisting bark of this tree) would be to have an over exposed sky. You can't use a grad filter because of the shape and position of the tree. The only solution is to combine 2 or more images one with the sky in proper focus, and the other with the tree, then combine them in post production.
I agree about #3. It's a mid afternoon shot at about 12,000 feet, a bristle-cone forest on Mt. Evans just below the tree line. I was with my family so moving faster than usual. That midday mountain light can be quite harsh (and blue). Most of the time I would either blend exposures using Exposure Fusion (not HDR) and/or shoot earlier or later in the day. I'm not sure I'm going to get much more out of that one. #2 was made at the same time (it's the same tree up close) but, without the sky, is, I think, much better. I also like the little knot in the center right of #2. If I had seen it while I was there, I would have made a macro of it. As it is, I'm afraid the file would not survive that severe of a crop.