Sage in the back yard. The quality of this image is closer to what I'm aiming for.
I took this photo in raw format yesterday. My camera allows me to take raw and JPG images simultaneously, so I can compare the two formats easily. After some experimenting, I'm not sure I can see significant advantages with the raw photos. In some cases, the raw file resulted in a better quality image, but not in all cases. I certainly need more experience processing raw files, and I'm using an older version of Photoshop at the moment (I have not yet downloaded Lightroom).
Thanks for all of your kind words of encouragement. I'm not fundamentally unhappy with my pictures, I just want more successes than failures. I don't share the bad ones here, of course (and there are many), but that's normal. There are so many variables to consider: lenses, lighting conditions, my choices for settings, etc. I have used the camera's "auto" mode as well, just to see if the camera's choices make better images than my choices. They don't (so that's encouraging). Onward!