I bet the first night you slept on it dryer, you probably moved around and scrunched the crunch out.
If I put too much or too little gel in my hair day is funky.
It's def part product part technique and part weather.
I'll say this though, I have a combo that works for me, if I vary one of the products my hair day is pretty much shot. I don't look like I have a birds nest but either my curls are too stiff, or too limp, or too greasy.
Man the pics of the good day are so good! You have all that volume on top and your curls are tighter and your hair is all shiny!
ETA: I forgot to say how I make sure I get the same results from day to day.
Part of it is doing the same exact thing daily, it just gets to be a habit. I use the same conditioner, bend over to rinse it, stay bent, apply the same leave in I do every day, then rake it through, scrunch. I can always tell if my hair is wet enough for my gel now. Super light hold gels need less water, just enough to encourage good clumping. Strong gels need more water. Usually I have to spray m ore water on my underneath, which is the top at this moment because I'm still bend over. I try and use the same gels always and the same drying technique which is to scruch with paper towels. Apply a tiny bit more product and then start my diffusing upside down. flip upright and lean head side to side and diffused until gel is still then air dry and scrunch out the crunch when 90% dry.