So in the latest D700 thread, you guys asked about what I do for HDR.
First, let me explain the difference between bit depths that some of you don't understand. 8 bit, 16 bit, and 32 bit have nothing to do with dynamic range, per say. What it means is in an 8bit environment you get 8 places to describe what a color is at that specific pixel, so RRGGBBKK. 16 bit allows 16 places to describe the color at that pixel, so RRRRGGGGBBBBKKKK. And 32 bit is 32 spots of information, RRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGBBBBBBBBKKKKKKKK. As you can tell, you get more precise with each spot, meaning you hold a lot more detail about what that pixel actually is. Which means you can then edit in a much more precise way. To be fully honest, I am not 100% sure that it is an even distribution of rgbk as I have listed on there, but you should get the idea.
Now then, on to my method. What I do is first convert a set of images that are +2,0,-2 together. I have found you really don't need more than this for 90% of scenes. Then I save the file as a .hdr (raidience (sp?)). I take that file into photomatix and do a total of three tone mappings to 16 bit space. One with saturation all the way up, strength all the way up, and luminosity set all up or almost all up. I believe there is another adjustment right under this, but I am writing this from memory. Then I make sure that the white point and black point do not, or clip as little as possible. Save the tone mapped file as a 16 bit tiff.
Second tone mapped image take the color saturation and turn it all the way down. Next take the luminosity an set it back to about normal levels. Whatever that missing adjustment that I can't remember also changes here. Basically back to normal levels. Punch up your black and white points so that they clip a bit. You should have a decent looking B&W image in the preview at this point. Save this as another 16 bit tiff.
Now the third tone mapped file. Go into tone compressor and play with the settings until you have a natural looking image that contains pretty much all the information. Save this as a 16 bit tiff.
Open up the third tone mapped image in Photoshop. This is your base image. Now open up the other two, copy all, and paste them as new layers into the first one. Create a layer folder and put the two you just pasted into there. Make sure the B&W one is above the color one. Change the blending mode on the B&W to hard light, soft light, or overlay. Now take the opacity of that folder and turn it down, normal blending mode. Play with it until the right level of overly processed and normal looking is achieved. I range anywhere from 18% to 70%, depending on what I want in the image.
As with any technique, this is the general base. From here you can play with it and alter it to suit your style.
I am not worried about anyone trying to steal the technique, because, it isn't the technique as much as the subject matter that really matters in the photo. Plenty of people know how to process a beautiful image in the darkroom, but the ones that have the most compelling subjects are the ones that make the best photographs.