HDR images don't necessarily look "fake" if they aren't overdone Tony. As a process, HDR was designed broaden a camera's ability to capture the wide gamut of dynamic range from over to underexposed images and extract useful information across the board. If used correctly and on the right type of subject, the results can and should be very subtle. It is not designed to be used on all subjects - just those that can benefit from a lift in dynamic range from dark shadowy areas to very bright.
A good example of where the technique should be used might be if the camera is positioned under a wide balcony looking out, where it's very bright outside and quite dark underneath the roof where the camera is positioned. Firstly capture a very long exposure that completely blows the highlights outside, but manages to render proper detail in the shadows underneath the balcony where the camera is. The second shot will be a compromise, and the third will be underexposed - leading to complete blackness under the balcony but proper exposure outside in the sunshine. HDR will take the best exposure areas in all 3 frames and dodge out the over and under-exposed areas and then merge the result. So, in the final result, you get the under-balcony areas used from the first shot and the outside areas taken in the third shot. There is a cross-over in the middle which will use great portions of the second frame.
The result is an evenly exposed image, and that in itself can look unnatural if you know in your own mind that the shadows and highlight areas in a darkly-lit building can all be seen at the same time in the same image - but shouldn't be.
The area I am liking in HDR does make the images look fake...check these out.
Put the original images besides these and it make them look really fake....it's all personal opinion just like I have mentioned...some like to enhace a little some more like to overdo and I have a lot to learn yet.
Check these out...do they look real...not to me...but thats what I like.
I like both shots... HDR works wonders on the right image, but isnt suited to everything...
I had a look at that link you posted, and there are some real stunners there.
I see your point, and I like the somewhat artificial look to heavily processed HDR images, but again, its horses for courses... It certainly works for church images on cloudy days... pwoah does it make them seem all doom and gloom!
I have done the HDR / Tonemapping process in the past, but I agree with others that it isn't for every shot. It is all about high dynamic range, so I would only use it when the scene calls for it.
Here is one I did with a three exposure combine in Photomatix, with the three exposures coming from a 2 stop AEB process. The first image is the first exposure (middle of the bracket) of the three and the other image is the completed photo. I used the HDR to get some details into the shadows.
Both Andrews have taken fantastic shots - what type of exposure settings do you alter when taking the three shots?
You're not limited to three by any means. I've used up to 15 shots to get smooth water effects like my Harbour Bridge shot.
If you have a camera that has an AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing) function, it'll be automatic - the camera takes a photo a stop or two under, then one at the mean exposure and then another a stop or two over in quick succession - it feels as though it has just taken a single exposure. Throw these three frames at PS or whatever else you use to generate an HDR merge.
I put my own camera into manual mode and set and lock the aperture to, say, f/5.6. I then take very short exposures at this aperture and gradually lengthen the exposure time between takes until I've gone from thousandths of seconds to two or three seconds over 12 or more frames. A tripod is a must so you don't move between frames. The more frames you take the smoother the result. The Harbour Bridge shot here was an HDR merge of 15 frames.
Awesome stuff guys...I love them all with Chris's a real stand out..."wow"
I apologise for my poor comparison...forgive me.
leon you take as many exposures as you like but at all different exposures...example 1 under exposed one normal and 1 over exposed...combine them in software such as Photoshop or something easier Photomatix and enhance the tones as you like.
Here are the 3 I used even though poor comparison but you can see the different exposures...I am going to try for 6 next time round if the conditions allow it.