The need for HDR
If you shoot landscapes in bright daylight, or into the light, you probably have had to choose between washed out skies or dark foreground. This is your camera do not have enough dynamic range to handle both the highlights and the darker areas. Current DSLR cameras have a dynamic range of 11 or 12 EV. You can find the exact measurement for your camera on http://www.dxomark.com/.
One solution is to shoot several bracketed frames (generally 3) and combine them using specific software: Photomatix, SNS HDR, Photoshop and now Lightroom.
Normal exposure with washed out clouds and background
Underexposed picture with dark foreground
Making sure frames are aligned
Frames need to be carefully aligned, even if some of the HDR programs can handle misalignments. So you will generally use a tripod or rest your camera on something.
If you shoot handheld, you might try to use continuous shooting. But you need to press the shutter continuously and tend to move slightly by doing so.
I found another method. It works on recent Canon cameras, but you may have the same function available on other brands: just look for it.
- Make sure your shutter speed is fast enough
- Enable bracketing on 3 frames. To handle scenes like the above one, one stop is generally enough.
- Change the drive mode to the 2 seconds timer
With these settings, your camera will shoot the 3 frames in a row.
- Press the shutter
- Remove the finger from the shutter
- Brace yourself and stop breathing
- Wait for the three shots to complete
This minimizes the shake between the frames
Even if I had moved, I was able to recover the misalignment using the HDR function in Lightroom every time.
HDR combination of the above