I just thought this was a good photo to show some color processing I've liking lately. These don't produce real crazy images or anything "hdr" related ( :) ), but the more you get into this stuff, the more you appreciate subtleties. (In fact, it's kind of like drinking in that way... bear with me. Like when you first "learn" to drink, you want to see how much you can drink and you think it's so awesome drinking a lot. However, the more experienced a drinker you get (hopefully), the more you realize anyone with a mouth can get drunk. It's the person who can drink and handle it and NOT go overboard who's more respectable.) Anywho, the first image is the original straight out of camera shot. Pretty dog gone awesome shot if you ask me, but the white balance is a little off, so some of the colors get washed out.
This first shot is using LAB color mode and enhancing the colors that way. I've just started messing with this, but it can be incredibly useful. Here's a pretty good example of fixing a washed out photo. The shot below is my finished. It's not a drastic change, but I don't want something drastic for this type shot; subtle is the name of the game.
You can see how the colors are just a lot more saturated. And using this (LAB color) method is probably the least destructive way of saturating the colors. (If you have photoshop, that tutorial above will show you everything in a manner I'm not willing to make the time for.) Here are a couple more examples (with a touch of unsharp mask) (notice how no highlights are blown and no shadows are lost):
This next one is a variation on Cross Processing (without the yellow). I guess it looks more like some type of film. My knowledge of film is quite limited, so I'm not sure which type this resembles. But I like the slightly off-balance colors. The blues are sort of inverted, whereas the blue is taken out of the highlights and increased in the shadows (an inverted Blue curve does this).
I like this option a lot because it just really takes the date out of the photo. It's kind of like B&W in that it makes the shot almost "timeless" (in the sense that it's hard to place it in time due to it's colors/lack of) (I think the Blue Blockers help make it timeless too :) ). All of those shots from my birthday were processed like this. It obviously takes a little extra care because just like anything, you can get a little crazy with it.
Anyway, both of these post-process methods give you a lot of color/look options. Pretty cool stuff. I never ceased to be amazed at the amount of "invisible" information present in a jpeg/digital photo. It's just incredible.