So I'm still not sure if I'm headed on the right direction. I'm still editing my old shots and trying to make something out of it. But as everyone knows, you can't do shit to your photo if your photo is shitty in the first place. I spent roughly 2 days on this photo and this is the best I could do. However, I still think it is good practice. It's better to make mistakes and learn all the pitfalls you need to avoid so that when you get to edit a portfolio worthy shot, it will be epic.
Here is how this image started. As you can tell it's a complete mess but a wonderful practice on blending exposures manually. The darkest exposure looks nice for the sky while the middle exposure is good for the mountains in the back and finally the lightest exposure is good for the foreground to mid-ground.
After blending for about half an hour, I usual start with balancing the tonal range of the image. My favorite is using the dodge and burn layer so I could easily target the areas I want to brighten/darken quickly and hassle free. After which, I would proceed with color correction and/or saturation. At the end of day one I was already happy with my shot so I proceeded to save and upload to my SmugMug site.
The following day, I checked my image at work (ooppss sorry boss) with my uncalibrated monitor and found a bland image. I was pretty pissed on the thought of working on an image the whole day and finding it shitty. I don't quite understand this yet, but when I see other people's works on the same monitor, they still look amazing. My monitor back at home is properly calibrated so it's definitely my image that sucks. I think I have to learn how to edit in such a way that even with a bad monitor it would still look good.
Once I got home, I checked my image and surprisingly found it indeed lifeless and boring. This lead me to think that I should not spend hours and hours looking at the same image. I think my eyes have already adjusted to it and thus I could not see how bad it was. So, I did a 2nd pass of editing to adjust color and contrast once again. I am hoping this time it will look good in any monitor.
I think my approach to leveling-up my photoshop game is a little misguided. I should stop staring at the same image for a very long time. I guess it would help if I took a break and edit it again on a different day to give my eyes a rest and avoid adjusting to the image. If my image still looks good after I let it settle for a while, then probably it is worth posting.