Care To Give Me Some Advice?

It is time to go shooting again. As I pulled together my photography portfolio, I was reminded that the best image is always the one I haven't made yet. However, it is also time to do some excavating of my file junkyard, a.k.a. the "dumptique." In the past few years I've become a much better editor, due largely to my work at the William Blake Archive. I see solutions for images I thought were hopeless, and I see ways to curtail the over-editing that always seems to plague a Photoshop newbie. The shots below fall in the latter category, I think. What to help me figure out how to revive them?

Click to Enlarge. Copyright Katherine L. Carlson, All Rights Reserved

1a. Unedited Original
This is nearly straight out of the camera, though I cropped it. The exposure is pretty solid, though it needs some sharpening. I like the color contrast and the harsh textures. It looks like a cold day, and it was.

Click to Enlarge. Copyright Katherine L. Carlson, All Rights Reserved

1b. Newbie Edit
I really can't imagine an outdoor photographer who hasn't at some point riffed on Ansel Adams. (Oh hi, Rose and Driftwood.) I went black and white to bring out the texture of the fence, which I nevertheless failed to sharpen enough.

Click to Enlarge. Copyright Katherine L. Carlson, All Rights Reserved

2a. Unedited Original
Of this shot someone once said, "I don't know what it is, but I like it."  That's kind of how I feel. Practically speaking, it is a motorcycle mirror sitting on an oil drum littered with old tools. Symbolically speaking, I think it says something about hope and hard work. Right now it is underexposed and has a blue cast. It could also use some sharpening. All that is easy though -- I'm just wondering where to take the tonal mood.

Click to Enlarge. Copyright Katherine L. Carlson, All Rights Reserved

2b. Newbie Edit
I wanted to emphasize the gritty farm atmosphere of the shot, and I was in love with the wood and rust textures in the lower right. (I still am.) Sepia seemed to be the answer, yet most serious photographers these days would tell you that sepia is never the answer. Plus I cut that nice red paint right out, not to mention the blue sky and yellow butterflies. (I mean really, Katie,  you want to say "hope," so you cut out blue skies and yellow butterflies?) On the other hand, if anything is a candidate for sepia, a Montana farm would top the list. The geometric and textural elements come to the fore in a monochromatic image, and those two attributes are my favorite parts of this fairly busy scene.

So what do you think?  Where should I take these photographs next? Probably only one will make my portfolio, so which would you pick?