We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Beautiful picture but, at the risk of sounding belittling (not my intent), a great picture is more about location, location, location, plus a good eye, than it is about equipment. I am envious of your friend getting to go to Patagonia. Myself, I would love to photograph a restored Tibet (ie: minus the invading Chinese--a sentimental favorite film "Seven Years in Tibet"), or just about any African lion reserve, or the classical ruins of Greece or...enough, home with a fever from a cold so not rational....
Also, a great like Ansel Adams achieved part of his effect by doing what some consider cheating in the dark room. People indulge the same artistic license nowadays by heavy use of Photoshop. Photos are about art as much as about equipment. I am not saying your friend did this, just reflecting on some pictures I have enjoyed...
I suspect your friend would have got just as good a picture with a point and shoot. Have you seen some of the point and shoots out there anyway? Would enclose something I took, but too enervated to go find the other laptop...
There is for sure a line you don't want to cross with photoshop 'light'. If you stay within the parameters of what the eye would have seen in nature if only the light was a trifle better, then i think you've not cheated but improved the effect toward the usual end, that is, a good and honest picture. The problem with internet photos is that the sending monitor settings and color/gamma light/dark settings may well be set differently than the receiving computer & monitor. For instance, Maggie's pics are always far too dark for my set-up--I have to lighten 'em to see 'em (I use dark, high contrast settings because the type looks so much cleaner & sharper).
So, my pics, when I send what I think is a great shot, will hit the recipient sort of washed-out looking--unless I remember to compensate.
I agree, BL. I don't mean to be a snippy purist, as there are times one can actually see someone's face by careful brightening, and I don't consider that any more cheating than using a flash (actually, brightening in Photoshop usually makes for a better pic than washing out all faces with a point and shoot flash).
Also,in our household we notice considerable difference between PCs and Macs as far as fidelity to color tones go. In general, we find that what we see on a Mac monitor is usually pretty close to what we get on the rare occasions we actually print the pictures (say, when sending them to a 90 year old in a nursing home who thinks computers are an instrument of the devil). When I print from my trusty (actually totally unreliable--the reason Sanjay in Bombay and I are on such intimate terms)Dell, all bets are off for color.
I think it's 'cause everything Mac works together. In fact, their i-Photo is good enough for the minimal cropping and red eye and brightening I do with pix.
I read these convoluted descriptions on photography websites on manually configuring your PC monitor settings, etc. and just go AAAAGH.
PC monitor, you won't go far wrong maximizing contrast and minimizing brightness, and then solving for shadow vis the computer's Gamma setting. Make your base Gamma line run from from about 90% of the bottom axis to about 90% of the right axis--keep a rough 45 degrees, 5 degrees up or down either way.
Then fine-tune from there. You'll end up with excellent graphics, and photos with depth but maybe too dark a shadow. Make your last settings on Gamma in order to bring up a shadow in a good pic, juuust enough.
Anyhoo that's how i do it. Then I make it all work by putting on my new kaleidoscope eyeglasses--