This is my first HDR photo and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. I wish my car looked this fierce in real life. The photo is a blend of the following 4 photos (click on photos for larger version):
Here's the 2 minute lesson on contrast and HDR:
Cameras have much less contrast range than the human eye. As you can see in the first 3 images above, the camera can't get the detail of a bright sky and a dark shadow in the same image like your eyes. Either the sky is too bright or the shadow is completely black (or somewhere in between). By taking one exposure for the sky, one for the shadow, and one for the midrange, I have now covered all the ranges in multiple images. These 3 exposures can then be blended together in Photoshop to get detail in all 3 exposure ranges. This is typically done for architecture photographers when they are photographing an indoor scene with a window. They take one exposure for the dark interior and one exposure for the window and blend them together.
The fourth photo is a pure HDR composite of the first three photos. HDR = high dynamic range. HDR is the multiple exposure concept on steroids. Programs such as Photomatix take these multiple exposures and blend them together with localized contrast that creates a gritty, moody feel to the photo. I took this HDR photo and blended it with the 3 multiple-exposure photos to get the final photo at the very top. Crazy, huh?