The top image shows one of the many spectacular buildings in the Summer Palace, which is relatively close to Beijing.
It is one of my favorite HDR images from a recent trip to China. I created it in Photomatix from three exposures: 0EV, +2 EV and -2 EV. Those exposures captured the dynamic range of the image.
The middle exposure from my set of pictures is below. A tip here: don't take more exposures than you think you need. More exposures increase processing time, and worse still, noise.
Start with the White Point Slider in Photomatix,
Then Use the Black Point Slider
When working in Photomatix, my #1 suggestion is to start with the White Point slider. Move it all the way to the left and then gradually move it to the right - until you begin to lose details in the highlights. Then, move it back to the right until you can see the details in the highlights.
If you lose the details in the highlights, you defeat the purpose of HDR, which is designed to capture all the tones in the a scene. In the above image, you see that some of the detail is lost in the bright highlights.
After working with the White Point Slider, move the Black Point slider to the right until the shadows begin to get blocked up, and then move it back to the left until the details in the shadow areas are revealed.
That said: Light illuminates, shadows define. Some shadows can be good, as well as some bright highlights. So, create the image that you like, using the adjustments to your heart's content.
Photomatix creates true HDR images from several images. Below is an example of how to create a pseudo HDR image from a single image. All I did was to open my original file of the Great Wall of China in Topaz Adjust
and then apply the Spicify filter. Kinda cool.
If you like HDR imaging, check out my latest book, HDR Secrets for Digital Photographers
It's packed with more before/after examples and screen shots than most HDR book out there.
Expanding the Dynamic Range in Photoshop
. . . and More.
For a discount on Photomatix and some plug-ins, check out the Plug-in Experience
Explore the Light - and explore HDR,