In the field
Problems - cloudy sky, weak sun directly behind subject and only one camera/lens combination available. But since this was the only chance of a shot there was no option to shot first and ask processing questions second. So blast away with 3 auto-exposure bracketed shots and hope for the best.
Back at the PC
I used the latest version of Photomatix Pro to align and combine the 3 images into a single composite image. But as expected the results were less than inspiring - certainly better than the original shots but totally lacking in interest or eye-appeal.
It was time to go further and push the processing into the land of the surreal.
At least creating the TIF (bottom left) had provided plenty of subtle changes of tone and brightness. Changes that the image filters could exaggerate and distort. And after several failed attempts I eventually came up with something that I liked enough to keep. But it was a struggle and shows how important it is to get the right lighting at the time of shooting.
The Nuts and Bolts
The shots were taken on a Canon 5D + 17-40mm f4 at 25mm, AV set to f6.3 using 200 ISO and RAW. The exposure bracket step was 2 EV so the sequence was 0, -2, +2.
The software used to align the shots, create the composite image (32-bit HDR) and then tone map to a 16-bit TIF was Photomatix Pro (free trial here). The settings I used in Photomatix were saved and can be downloaded here
Topaz Adjust v2.5 was used to boost the colour and contrast. See the More Info page for details of the product.
And the beta-test version 3 of Topaz Simplify was then used to add even more way-out effects.