Like I said... I scoff
I agree with everything but this:
If it's obvious in your photos that you are using flash, you're doing it wrong.
It's obvious to me that fill flash was used because I see the strength of the backlighting... there's no way that I'm not looking at a silhouette unless you used fill. That said, I applaud you. You understand lighting and you're not on a high horse that neighs flash should be avoided at all costs.
Perhaps you didn't use fill because you didn't have your flash unit and there's no pop-up... but your image editing abilities are so tremendous that you're able to lift the shadows and still keep contrast and detail... then as you're meticulously trying to brighten those darker areas and keeping details, don't you miss that on-camera flash?