I got here late, and had a look at only a couple of photos. I’m not as taken with the swamp as IHF, but that’s a personal thing. I saw this one: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=414085422031300&set=a.414625621977280.1073741841.382840941822415&type=3&theater, and I think you should have metered on the flower since that is what you focused on and it looks blown out.
I have a T2i, which is almost the same as the T3i, there was not enough difference even to the T5i that I’m willing to upgrade. I don’t shoot many portraits from a tripod with it, but I think it’s a pretty good camera. The centre focus point is best by far, so it is the only one I use. I focus and recompose but I shoot hand held most of the time and my main tripods have ball heads. Focusing modes of a 5D Mk III take up many pages in the manual and were a pain to figure out, but it runs rings around a Rebel when focusing!
I saw in the discussion that you and Bill like to mostly use Manual mode. Here is a quick commercial for Aperture mode. If you are in M, and just centering the meter, you might as well be in Av instead. That’s what Av does and it saves finding the button to switch the control wheel between aperture control and shutter control, so it is faster. If on the other hand, you are shooting with studio strobes, then M is the better choice because the meter won’t know anything about the light that’s about to happen.
I use Digital Photo Professional on my notebook when I have to do a quick raw conversion. The rest of the time, I use Adobe Camera Raw that comes with CS5 because I like the noise control better. Now that I am more familiar with ACR, I also like how much editing you can do before dropping the file into Photoshop to finish it up. One thing DPP does very well is reading the camera settings and delivering the initial conversion to match camera settings. If you are having trouble with DPP, it may be worth looking at your camera’s settings to make sure they are suitable for what you are doing. I use DPP mostly to get what the camera would provide without much, if any, adjustment, so I have not seen any problems with it.
I tried http://image.online-convert.com/ with a file from my 5D Mk III, and got back a mess! Definitely not the solution for me, but if it works for you, that’s great. I see there is also an opportunity to download a number of programs from that site, but I did not try them.