How Much Post Work is Right to Use?

I have been spending a lot more time this past year in post. A lot of this is due to the fact that i have shooting aircraft for the majority of that time. Now when I photograph statics I always feel it is my job to make the planes look absolutely magnificent. I always try for that romantic jaw dropping shot. Now often in order to get that shot I have to do some work in post not just with exposure. Often images would require some removal of background clutter. Air fields just aren’t clean. It made me think, and i have been thinking about this for a while. How much is too much post work.?

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Take for example these two images. These were both taken this past Monday right before sunset before a big thunderstorm came through. We had a good lightning show that night. Now I like to go out exploring trying to find new places to shoot around town. This just happens to be one of the spots that I found for the first time. What caught my attention immediately was this barn. It was an amazing red barn that just stood out compared to the other houses around. I love barns. In Montana barns just scream out west. Finding good ones to work is hard and finding good clouds to work with them is even harder. That’s why I had to shoot the barn this day.

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Now i shot this many ways, tight, wide, single shot, bracketed for HDR, trying to capture the great light on the barn and the exposure in the clouds. Obviously this one isn’t HDR the exposure in the clouds is a little hot. While in post i started removing little things that bugged me, like the tops of white houses in the background. I started thinking about it and the road didn’t seem right. When I think western I always think about that wide open range with nothing in sight. The road seemed to modern and therefore out of place. Now if I had composed differently this wouldn’t be an issue but I was able to remove it in post rather easily. That’s when it occurred to me this might be going to far. Now if i never showed the before image no one would ever know, unless in some unlikely chance someone recognized the spot i was at. So my question to everyone, that i don’t have an answer for and I always want you to keep in mind, is when is it going to far in post?

Images Captured with Nikon D3, AF-S 14-24, on Lexar UDMA Digital Film

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