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Thank you both for your input.
I, too, prefer the first. The tighter crop gives more for the eye to work with and the lighting is a bit moodier, fitting the mood of the bear. I'm fairly happy with it, although surely improvements can be made.
The second one is flatter, and has both more monotony (wall of gray to the left) and distractions (light at the top). I'll probably increase the contrast on the lower end and crop in a bit tighter to get rid of the stuff at the top.
I was mainly focusing on demonstrating tonality and sharpness in these. The first definitely wins on both fronts there, I think.