Many good edits on this one.
OK, I'll play.
In Lr I adjusted white balance off the white tent canopy the boosted the exposure 2/3 a stop and pushed the shadows +39 and the whites +65. The bright sky on the top right was screaming for attention; cropping got rid of some of it and I used Lr to pull the highlights -100 and added some curves and adjustment brushes in layers to tone it down. I probably could have spent more time evening it out but I got it to where I was reasonably satisfied. Then I went to work on the balloon, adding a couple of adjustment brushes to brighten it up and make it glow. Finally I bumped the sharpening to 41 with a mask of 84 to minimize noise increase, and luminance increased noise reduction to 26 to get most of the noise out of the sky.
Moving on to Ps I duplicated the background layer then used a high-pass filter, adjusting it to just catch the texture of the grass. Then I blended the new layer at 93% and masked out the sky and edges of trees and the balloon to reduce noise and haloing. This caused the noise in the trees to go way up but that looked better than the softness that was there originally. While I was in Ps I picked up the trash on the ground.
My last step was going into Perfect Effects 8 and adding a slight amount of "glow" to the overall image and then back into Lr to bring up the shadows just a touch more.
I just wish I could see what the people in the photo are looking at.
[P.S., I generally like the automatic retrieval of EXIF info, except in cases like this.]
If I was looking for the most realistic, true-to life image, your second image was the best of the bunch...unfortunately, only the first submitted edit is supposed to be considered. The first image is good also, but I don't like that the couple got chopped at the bottom.
The light in the background made this look like it was supposed to be an evening shot, so I added an evening sky. I just got done reading a bunch of stuff about blending layers, so I spent a long time goofing around with multiple layers, masking and trying different things. Here's what I've been reading today.
My advanced Photoshop skills are moving along more quickly than my basic Photoshop skills, so I still do a bunch of knuckleheaded things, light flattening the layers so I can go back into Camera Raw where I'm more comfortable with the adjustments. (Like making the light pole vertical.)
If anyone is interested (and I would love any kind of criticism you'd be willing to throw at me), I'll include a link to the .psd file (before the layers were flattened). I still have a lot to learn about doing non-destructive adjustments to individual layers, and how to mask and sharpen more efficiently.
The guy with the skateboard and the family in the lower right caught my eye, so I cropped mostly around them, which seemed to put the balloon in a pretty good place. Then, to increase the feeling of dusk, I illuminated the balloon a bit, with a shadow on the upper right, and added some lens flare to the pole light.
Thanks - that was a perfect image to experiment with!
This edit was unique, and it added an extra bit of drama to the image. I personally think it would have been even better if the darkened gradients were more feathered and subtle.
I'm liking the crop on this, as well as the colors. The whole scene seems to really pop.
Surprisingly, choosing was more difficult than I had expected, but I think Cacawcacaw takes this round. Great job. Looking forward to the next round.