This is a photo of the “Ringy Dinghy” taken at Lake Michigan in Milwaukee, Wisconsin…
I started with a single RAW image and created 3 different exposures by processing the NEF file in Photoshop. Once I had the 3 files, I loaded them into Luminance HDR (aka ‘qtpfsgui’) which combined them into an HDR image, and I then tonemapped the image.
This part won’t mean much to you unless you are familiar with qtpfsgui (aka ‘Luminance HDR’) but these are the tonemap settings for this particular image. (I tend to use Mantiuk the most.)
TMOSETTINGSVERSION=0.5 TMO=Mantiuk06 CONTRASTFACTOR=1.532 SATURATIONFACTOR=2 DETAILFACTOR=11.9 CONTRASTEQUALIZATION=NO PREGAMMA=1
Once I created the tonemapped image, I saved that, and then combined it with the middle exposure shot in Photoshop, just slightly blending the layers. Then I saved that file as our final image.
This is pretty much the technique I described as HDR+ back in 2009, and the method I used for my Red Barn photo.