This looks like the image I would normally take (it's not mine). You have the scene in your head, you get home with your HDR spray and start merging them together. This is a case where the details really matter, this image could be really great, but it's not quite there. The sun is nice and bright, but everything else is too dark. It needs a boost in the trees around the lake to really put you in that place.
- The distractions at the top of the screen are just that, distractions. They don't add anything to the image, so why leave them in?
- The dreaded dust spots. We all have them and end up with them on your sensor once in a while. It's good to learn how to clean your own sensor. You don't have to touch it, just learn how to use an air blower and blow the stuff out. It makes a world of difference when you try and post process. Dust spots seem to be more pronounced when you put them through HDR. I was recently at Old Car City and shot all day, got back to the room and every single image have a HUGE block spot in the center of the image. Enough of one that I tossed out most of day 1.
- HDR artifacts are a real pain. Most of the HDR software has a get rid of ghosting check box or processing. Watch out for ghosting and correct for it. It can really make a fair image better.
The stuff at the left side of the image is a distraction in the case. A lot of big scene like this you like to leave some branches or natural framing in the shot. If it acts as a frame, it's good. In this case it's lop sided. It's not a frame, it's stuff on the left side of the image. Unfortunately for this image, cropping it out after the fact isn't really possible. This is a crop in frame type of job. Look out for these things when taking your image, be purposeful about what you put there.
This image is another one that is too tough to try and edit after the fact, I couldn't do justification to it. Thanks for sending it in!