Advice on how to best edit this picture
I enjoy these kinds of posts. It's like an artistic puzzle to be figured out; one with many possible solutions. My first thought is that the shadow is a great element in this photograph. It looks like a dark hand reaching into the ground. Shadows also symbolize time, death, etc., so it works very well with the cemetery setting. It also connects the foreground to the background. The drawback of the shadow in this photo is that, unfortunately, it points directly out the side of the frame and there's nothing to stop the viewer's eye from moving away. Apart from going back and taking another photograph at a different angle, there's one trick I can think of that could help... add a frame. Either print the photo and put it in a physical frame or create a digital border/frame in Photoshop. That would contain the eye to some degree.
Other than composition, I think you'd probably agree that the colors don't do anything for the photo. Vibrant colors wouldn't capture the mood either. The obvious choice is to convert the entire image to B&W or monotone. You mentioned that the original image was too busy. I think converting to B&W would help with that. For example, the slice of sky would not draw the same amount of attention with the blue color removed. I like the way your processing brings out the statue detail in the edited version, but I don't like the processing on the background. Darkening the background brings out the statue, but it detracts from the overall scene. The processing on the background especially wouldn't work with the shadow in an uncropped version which is the composition I prefer.
Try converting the original image to B&W and applying the same treatment to the statue that you applied in the cropped version, but don't mess with the background other than making it B&W. Then add some sort of border. I'm terrible at figuring out what style border looks good, so I'm afraid I can't help you with that.
One last opinion on the composition: When you crop the shadow and create a close-up of the statue, most of the artistry of the image is in the beautiful carving of the statue. When you include the shadow and the larger view of the cemetery, the image becomes more than just a capture of a statue. The elements that you, the photographer, included in the photo serve to enhance the meaning that was so beautifully sculpted into the statue and the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts.
I would like suggestions on how I could better edit this picture (or a better framing idea for future reference). I was using a 50mm lens this day.
I wanted to bring out the statue, so I used the adjustment brush in Lightroom 4 to make the background darker and the statue brighter and sharper:
Maybe I went overboard here. I like the full statue and the shadow in the original, but the picture seemed a bit too busy. When I cropped the top part of the picture, the left part of the picture with the shadow seemed to empty. So I ended up cropping from the bottom, too.
Anyway, I'm learning Lightroom and photography more now and would appreciate any ideas on how I could make the final product better. Thanks!