Looking again at the posts in sand photographs I find myself swinging back to preferring the one without the figures. As an image I think it's better constructed. But then the one with the figures makes a better picture, having an element of narrative.
Likewise the original and the crop below. The original, with the parked vans, gives a sense of space and place, while the crop is more graphic. The original is a picture, the crop an image. Which I think is 'better' depends on what I think their purpose is at any given moment!