HDR, as usually done, has no appeal to me. Actually I hate it. Most HDR images look like parodies of paintings on black velvet.
But if done with restraint it’s a useful tool. Camera sensors, like film, are limited in the range of light they can capture. Sometimes it’s not possible to capture detail in both the brightest and darkest parts of the subject. This causes areas of pure white or black. With most sensors, that pure black is more like black with colored acne squares.
The solution is take three photos in quick succession, varying only the EV value. A tripod and a camera which does EV bracketing are essential. The resulting ‘middle’ photo will have pure white highlights and mottled black lowlights. The ‘high’ exposure will have detail in the unmottled blacks, the ‘low’ exposure will have detail in the brightest areas. Combine the best parts of the three exposures and you have a high dynamic range image. Crank everything up to 11 and you have a typical HDR image.
HDR fans use plug-ins to combine the 3 (or more) exposures. I did this one by hand – and it shows. This detail shows the middle exposure on the left and the HDR on the right.
To see the difference in highlights, look close at the buildings beyond the trees.