If you've read my previous journals, or browsed through my gallery, you'll know I'm a big fan of "gentle" HDR. Taking into account the feedback I received, I have been experimenting somewhat with my post processing. I still maintain that the most important step is the moments leading up to when you take the shot, but post-processing can be make or break.
Some of my most recent shots do not feature HDR at all. In fact, if they were "full blown" HDR, it would probably ruin them. I have also been experimenting with bigger apertures and hand holding the camera, rather than relying on the tripod all the time. This permits some interesting depth of field, and some experimentation with composition, such as the near ground level shots at the Giant's Ring. This produces something different to what the average person standing up will ever see. I am trying to go back to basics a little and concentrate first and foremost on getting a decent shot in the camera.
I do like the clarity of some of my non-HDRs, such as the flower pictures and the sunset (which is one of my favourites). These photos, also taken at as low an ISO as I can go and with a "vibration reduction" lens, seem to produce a clarity which is missing from some of the HDRs. (I thought perhaps like the difference between a watercolour and an oil painting).
I haven't given up totally on HDR so far. I find that it is useful for regaining a bit of lost detail, where due to the situation, or my own lack of skill, I can't quite get the exposure spot on. I have cranked down the settings further in Photomatix, to about 20% or 30% Strength, kept Luminosity close to 0, the Microcontrast around 2, and upped the Microsmoothing to about 20. Also, I may now use only two exposures, at no more than +/- 1EV. This will produce a less dramatic, and perhaps less pleasing result initially, but with the same general post processing, produces results I'm happy with.
I can't quite throw HDR away, because I think it can alter the local contrasts to produce a pleasing result. But I will blend back in an original exposure to calm the effect down if necessary. Perhaps I end up with a half way between the "traditional" look and HDR (where I run the risk of everyone disliking it ). But if I get a few "I like it" (whether or not followed by "Is this HDR?") comments, I will feel like I've succeeded.
So, from now on, if I think HDR processing will make the photo look better I will use it as gently as I can, if not, then I won't use it at all... and I will continue to learn and modify my techniques based on the feedback I get.