I have kept digital negatives that plague me, figuring I will learn a new technique, figure out a technique, or buy a tool that will help me in the future.
That's why I use so many layers. That way I can step back and rework an image at some point at a later time.
I try to avoid situations like that digital negative. I was rushing and the LCD fooled me.
I like how LightMachine protected the fine branches on the tree at the extreme right of the image and the smaller one near it. Thise fine spidery branches tended to be a casualty when I would work the image in ACR II or apply tone-based maps.
I used the Highlight/Shadows mode in LightMachine and worked at keeping as much contrast for those branches as I could get.
When I brightened the image in LightMachine, it tended to break down. (Admittedly, I am not completely familiar with it yet, so that could be operator error.) But I figured if I got a good foundation, I could build on that.
Nothing was difficult. The brushing was built up over successive strokes. So it was all freehand dabbing and dragging the brush around. I tend to use something like 20-30% opacity and set the flow at 100%. Sometimes 80% for the flow. That way, the strokes easily blend in.
It was all routine retouching stuff. When you're new to PS, those 6 or 7 steps sound like a lot. But anyone with a bit of experience with Photoshop should be able to achieve a similar result in 20-30 minutes.
You can see an earlier result wthout LightMachine in my tutorial here on tone-based masks:http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/masking.shtml
It's surprising how we can take a dreadful image and craft something worthwhile from it sometimes, eh?