Have you ever wondered how the “Great Photographers” have been able to capture a scene or a moment in such a way that the image becomes memorable or even iconic? It is because the photographer came to connect with not just the subject matter but the surrounding environment and was able to organize the elements or move himself or herself into position to best capture, visually, the elements which most represent the moment. That is what I refer to as getting a feel for the moment.
It is an ability to get attuned to the subject matter so much so that you recognize, by gut-feeling, how best to portray it and produce the strongest possible image. Now, it is possible to create strong images through manipulation of colour, contrast, lightness and darkness. But, applying that as a formula to your images will leave them without the one thing that I believe matters most – emotion. The adjustments become mechanical at best and do not in any way magnify or better express the mood or emotion of the image. It is possible to create a strong image without excessive manipulation you just have to better express the mood.
To summarize, I believe that every image should be rendered in a manner which best suits the mood and manipulations should be applied as merely corrections to adjust the image so that it better expresses the mood.