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It isn't the darkness, it's just over processed, as most of your skies are.
It looks to me like like you have a spot or two of rain on the front of your lens. That's what's causing the flare, which as mentioned, takes on the shape of the aperture.
For me, neither.
I would suggest that for cohesion whenever you montage images together, that you ensure uniformity. ie, make the two landscape oriented pictures the same size, make the vertical shot the same height as the other two, and the spaces between them all the same. That way, with the white key lines around the images, there is uniform amounts of black and it doesn't look lopsided.
It's not as easy to capture the river as it seems at first!
To answer your question, no, not for me.
What's wrong with the apostrophe?
I would like to see the seed head sharper, but to me the black and white conversion is not quite as sympathetic to the dandelion as it might be. The bottom of the seed head is starting to get close in tone to the graduated sky. Darkening the sky all over (adding red filtration) would allow it to stand out more, and with the added sharpness it might make the seed head pop more. I'd also clone out that bit of cloud to make the sky background cleaner.
In this situation, you cannot get everyone's face unless you set the shot up, so I'm not that bothered by it, but I would say seeing what the author is doing more clearly would be better, and you would get at least a profile of him. Moving a smidge to the left would do that.
A competent environmental portrait. The shop tells us more about him than he does, as his face is largely covered, it's a shame the shutter speed has cut half the pictures off on the TV screens.
The images are indeed all slightly underexposed, due to the bright lights fooling the meter.
I'm afraid I'm not really a fan of this selective colour, and I feel the image lacks the balancing effect of colours in other parts of the spectrum.
Not quicker, but better, look at photo stacking software online. The inclusion of dark frames and flats increases the signal to noise ratio and cuts pretty much all sensor generated noise. I use Deep Sky Stacker (free) and there are lots of tutorials out there about its use and processing. Other stacking programs are available.
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