I don’t normally do HDR. I’ve fiddled with the process a few times, and posted some of the results here, but in general I don’t get results I appreciate. I don’t often see results from others I appreciate either, for that matter. HDR is often used to create a surreal scene, laden with special effects, and if I had a large interest in that I would learn to use Photoshop better and create my scenes from scratch.
For my personal aesthetic, the best use of HDR is to enhance the scene to look more like the eye sees it. Or, rather, to make the image look more like how the mind remembers it.
This morning I found myself, against all reason, wide awake a few minutes before sunrise, and in a fit of inspired energy I flogged myself out of bed, threw on some warm clothes, and took off to see if the local cemetery would provide an image for me as the sun rose over the horizon. Well, it did and it didn’t. I saw some really nice colors, but the camera had difficulty with them. If I captured the colors in the sky, there was nothing but black in the foreground. If I got the foreground, the sky was white.
But the morning was still, and so I decided to try some very slow shots and step my way up to faster ones, with the aperture as tight as I could get it for maximum depth of field. I still didn’t get any single shot I was happy with, but once back home I figured that this is supposed to be the sort of thing that HDR is good at, so I imported 15 exposures into my seldom-used HDR program and tweaked the settings until I got this final result, which I think is striking without looking like an alien landscape. The colors are as I remember them, colorful sky and vibrant greens.
This is what HDR is meant for.