He metered for the bark (or rather, the camera), which means the backlighting of the sun is going to be blown out, especially with a small-sensor compact camera. He could've metered for the overall scene but would've had to use fill flash for the bark details to show up. I don't really see the blown out background as an issue, though.
The first picture is definitely way overexposed haha. I was experimenting with manual mode on the camera with the first picture, and took a number of shots with varying degrees of exposure (see below) but the above had the most dreamy and unreal feel to it to me. The texture of bark look like a painting.
Got the camera as a gift, and it was me just breaking it in. It's definitely the best camera I've owned. It's a lot of fun!