I have been shooting over the last 9 months primarily for the purpose of creating HDR images, with each set typically 7 different exposures. I personally tend to keep them photo-realistic, but with the occasional that gets a little pumped up in saturation. http://www.flickr.com/photos/45208663@N07
Now, as far as this thread, we are hitting on two different topics. First, we have tone-mapping in general, as it relates to being used as a post processing tool for single images or multi-images. And second, as it relates to HDR image files as a way to crunch the range of exposure into something our monitors and printers can make viewable (this is changing though), or in other words, condensing the histogram so all the light values are viewable.
Many people considering tone-mapping equivalent to making an image an HDR image. But really that is not the case. The range is not extended at all just by tonemaping a single image. This is especially prevalent with those who think they can take one image and tonemap it, or give it an "HDR treatment." Instead, people use tone-mapping techniques to give their photos an often unrealistic view that they consider to be the same as real HDR photos that are completely overcooked. They don't understand how it works, but they want to create something the same. A single photo that has been tone-mapped is NOT and HDR image.
But I don't need to explain all this to you all. If you registered to use this forum, you probably know a pretty good deal about photography.The problem with tonemapping
(aside from it being applied to different types of images) is that it is very easy to use (with Photomatix or Photoshop, etc). Thus, we get a lot of people who use it on their images to make the colors pop and stand out more. But because it is so easy to use, they jack up all the settings, and cook these images until they sometimes just look ridiculous. Of course at this point it changes from a realistic photograph to another form of photography-based art. You can get the same oversaturated and overprocessed looks without tonemapping. Photoshop has tons of different filters and settings to change. But all in all, there are cheaper programs out there, especially those that offer tonemapping, that can let a very basic user adjust their histograms until their photo glows like Chernobyl (not to mention those halos in poorly processed HDR images!), that the user can create in a very short amount of time with instant results or previews of what each change will do.
how do you explain the blatant proliferation of images getting accolades on OP that are tweaked to have more dynamic range than the human eye???
You might be wrong on this. The eye can see up to about 11EV (I might be a little off on that number). Regardless, at 11EV, an HDR photograph would have to have 5 and 6 EV on each side of the regular exposure. You'd be suprised to know that most
HDR images that you see out there don't truly show more than 7EV. Most likely what you are seeing is just a poor use of tone-mapping.
I also think your (generally speaking) brain can't process all the detail in one HDR photograph.
Think of the size of one photograph. Lets say 12x18. No, lets say 20x30. Now you are looking at this photograph, and you see all the detail in the shadows, and all the detail in the highlights. "How is this possible?!" you think, and you brain goes crazy. Now, think of the entire world. You are out in the woods, or hiking in a canyon. Everything you see is a million times larger than 20x30. And your eye quickly adapts to all the light changes all around you. You are seeing that HDR image on a significantly larger scale, you just don't know it. Now, take that 20x30 image, and blow it up (without losing any detail) to a size that is the same as your world; Look at that! You can see all the details as your eye would allow, but in this instance, your eye doesn't have to change for the shadows or highlights. This is where your brain is getting all fuzy, and saying, "what is going on?!" We are limited by the size of our monitors and printers. And you can't really compare a tiny photograph to real life. It kills me when people say that realistic looking HDR images look fake. But really, it is your brain playing tricks on you. Of course, all this applies to HDR images that are not overcooked from excessive tone-mapping. By "excessive" I simply mean not photo-realistic; anyone can tone-map as they wish...but that is the crux of this entire post isn't it?
This is not a very good example of a realistic HDR image (but it does have its artistic value). Even if this is tone-mapped, you can emulate this with any photograph using the posterize feature in Photoshop. :p Cameron
Check out some of these instead: http://www.flickr.com/photos/45208663@N07
Keep in mind, you can't substitute real life with a 4x6 or even a 20x30 print or even make a reasonable comparison.
Also, don't forget that HDR images have a HUGE range of how they are being processed. And tone-mapping has so many possibilities, its stupid to lump them all into the same category...
I hope this helps a little bit...