On the plus side, the composition is interesting - standing on a cliffside amid gnarled old trees while watching the sunset in the valley beyond is a great setup for an exciting landscape painting. The original scene, while flawed, worked well as an underpainting since the excessive darks could be built upon with a lighter and better mix of colors.
The scene was adjusted with the addition of more interesting clouds to the sky and properly colored reflections in the water to match them. The trees have been brightened up with the low-angle light, and the forest has been pushed further into the distance to stand against the improved glow of the setting sun.
Improved painting: 14" x 17"
The end result is a far better scene that captures the drama and strong colors of the moment in a way inspired by some of the great landscape paintings of previous generations. Much like the other times I've improved old paintings, hopefully this post will be of use by providing solid examples of what to do and what not to do when trying to bridge that gap between a novice landscape painter and an experienced one.