Scott thinks that 5-minute Photoshop job counts as HDR.
No, I'll show you HDR. However amateur, the point stands that the imaging and post-processing method results in aesthetically beautiful photography.
We'll start out with three pictures that look like this.
One of these is the original. The top one has been adjusted for S/H and the bottom for B/C.
Combining them in Photomatix Pro 3 results in a crappy looking HDR render. It's exactly the same as the finished product but has not been processed to be displayed on a computer monitor or viewed by a person with normal vision. Imagine the bottom photo up there, only more washed out.
This is why we have tone-mapping. This tool gives you full control over what the final image will look like, from gamma and S/H to microsmoothing and highlight render density. Playing around with this program for the first time was the most fun I'd had on a computer for quite some time.
The finished product will not only have amazing tonal range and density, but also surreal color and perfect contrast. Think of it as a photographic compromise of sorts. It takes three (or more, but in this case three) images and draws from them all the detail, S/H, B/C, color balance, and gamma value, and then merges them to create something beautiful.
The final image looks like this.
It's this image.
Photomatix Pro can be downloaded as a free demo here. The full version costs $99. The trial doesn't expire but it does watermark your images, which a lot of people probably find very annoying. If you want to play around with it though, not for anything professional, go ahead and download it.
That's all for now, but my dabbling in this field of photography has only just begun...