One of the most important elements in learning anything is to spend time doing what you want to improve at. Out of my desire to learn to take HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos properly, I spent a good portion of the afternoon on Wednesday shooting in a forested area. The light on the trail was hard, both in terms of bright and shadow areas. I shot under those conditions on purpose, to see what can be done with the extended dynamic range this kind of shooting opens up to photographers. I used the auto bracketing function of my D700 to make this task easier. In most cases I bracketed 7-9 images, with 1 stop between each frame. I used 1 stop increments, because it opens up 3-4 +/- stops in each direction from the originally metered value. The idea of doing so was to capture as much of the light field as possible. I shot from a tripod and used the wired cable release, to prevent camera movement between shots.
The first thing I learned during this process is that when you shoot with auto bracketing in the fashion I did, your memory card fills up fast. The second thing I learned through this process is that even the slightest breeze can make your final HDR images look soft, due to the movement of trees and leaves more than anything else. Thankfully the wind was intermittent, and I was able to get some decent shots, consider that this is my first serious attempt to shoot with HDR in mind. The third thing I learned is that having 1 stop increments between each frame might be too much, and so I'll have to experiment with differing values in the future. Finally, and in my mind most importantly, I learned that when combined properly the blended images can create an image very close to what my eye saw vs what the camera could capture on its own in a single frame. I know that it is popular to use HDR to create dreamy, larger than life images, but that is not my goal for using this technique.