Your image is excellent and your inquiry very important for all of us. We all need to make a choice on the direction we go with our art and craft. I see many who go over the top (shall I say) with post processing.
Indeed, I have even been experimenting some as I try to learn the various post processing tools and I agree that some post processing is required, however the photographer should capture as much as possible with the knowledge of how to use his or her camera. Then use post processing software as a supplemental tool to adjust for what the scenes lighting, camera settings and sensor couldn't quite do.
While I continue to work with learning ways to use Photoshop CS5 and Nik Software to create effects to see what the possibilities are, philosophically I am with those who are minimalists by using Lightroom, Aperture, or Capture NK2 and then only resorting to full Photoshop or Elements to clean up an image that needs help. I definitely draw the line at putting stuff in an image or taking it out unless, the image becomes distracting or totally fails without some minor efforts at cloning and healing.
I belong to camera clubs and the Photographic Society of America (PSA). There I see many who go far into the manipulation mode almost exclusively--they are masters of all the possibilities with photoshop (combining, added, taking away, etc., etc.). The results are unbelievable at times. While the results may be interesting and even fun to see, I question if it is photography since they are more into creating an image after the fact and less about capturing a subject and composing with the camera creatively.
At the end of the day, I am more in the camp of what HBB has said in this thread, "My goal is to "capture" images, not "create" them." I just might need to adjust and clean up for it to be a great capture.
Great topic for endless discussion and debate.
jdroach, a Milwaukee area and sometimes Chicago area Nikonian.