Anyway, here's the update: I've been reading a LOT about the Zone System and HDR lately, and been wanting to try both. I decided a scene where there were pretty deep shadows and a very bright sky would be a good candidate for HDR, so I gave it a shot (or 5 bracketed shots).
click to enlarge, or see it on Flickr
Shutter Speed: (bracketed)
Focal Length: 18mm
The Good: HDR definitely brought the colors to life, though I think they're a bit over-saturated. This is predominantly because I still suck at tone-mapping. Everything seems to be exposed correctly. The left side was a single exposure, which I set to be somewhere in between correctly exposed for the sky and the rest.
The Bad: HDR made my mountains look fake, and really bad. I knew beforehand that it tends to kill detail in midtones, which is why most people who are good at HDR like to use exposure blending (which is essentially masking out various places of the HDR and substituting a real photo) as well in their HDR photos.
The Ugly: Despite the fact that I checked the "fix ghosting errors" box in Photomatix, the clouds look like an acid trip. I think the solution is to actually use my AEB setting in-camera rather than bracketing manually. That would allow me to get three frames bracketed 2 stops apart in less than a second, minimizing cloud drift, etc.
I'll continue to experiment with HDR. I feel like I totally understand the concept, I just need mucho practice at tone mapping.
As my place of work is starting to print and bind photobooks now, they have offered all the employees a free 20-page hardcover. Which is rad. I'll be using mine for a portfolio, so after roughing out what the design would be like, I concluded I needed more portraits to round it out. Approximately 38 seconds after offering to shoot free portraits on Facebook, I filled up the next two weeks with shoots. So expect a lot of portraits in the near future.