Sometimes it seems that a new idea sweeps across the landscape, somehow making its way into every photography magazine and website I read. Lately, I haven't been able to avoid the term HDR. From at least some of what I read, high dynamic range is going to replace megapixel count as the new holy grail.
A recent trip to Joshua Tree, California, gave me a good chance to experiment with HDR. The results? I'll stick with a good single exposure and a few adjustments, thank you very much.
Here's what I did: While in the desert, I bracketed quite a few shots, using a tripod to make it easier to align the images. Back at home, I tried PhotoShop's HDR automation, spending quite a bit of time tweaking my curves during the process. I was moderately happy with the results, but I decided to try adjusting the shadows and highlights in my original exposure (the one that seemed to capture the best range of tones). In every case, adjusting one exposure was more useful for me than the automated HDR process.
My conclusion from this experiment is NOT that HDR isn't important and useful. I've read enough to know that the issue is that I need to get more experience in this technique. There are lots of promising guides out there, and I am looking forward to another chance to put them into practice. For now, though, I'll stick with trying to capture the best exposure, then adjust it as well as I can.