I like the first one better too. The sharpness of the leaf and crunchiness of the twigs is awesome.
Here are two leaf shots I got in Vermont recently. I’m not 100% satisfied. The second one doesn’t have enough DoF. The first one is a tour de force of C1 processing with the leaves pushed 1.5 stops relative to the background. I first selected the yellow-orange leaves using the advanced color tool, and then converted the selection to a layer mask so I could tweak the mask (off the twigs and parts of the water and background) and, of course, apply all tools (exposure, saturation, clarity, sharpening, etc.) to just the yellow leaves. I find I often end up with ugly masking effects when I try to do that much of a difference between detailed elements and the background.
In my garden, in what I suspect will be the last sunshine for a while. Thoughts?
Additional comment: I suspect that the reason that Mike and I liked the first better is that the first has a blue background. Yellow and blue are complementary colors. We usually think of “contrast” in the tonal dimension. Complementary colors can be thought of as a contrast in the color plane.