I do not like my steak to be cover-cooked. Normally I would have them medium. Similarly applied to photography. I detest over-processed images, that looked overdone. Some people think that those over-ambitious HDR shots look like surrealistic paintings, but to me its a simple case: steak accidentally, or unskillfully over-done, that it has lost its original flavor, tenderness and juiciness.
Nonetheless, I also acknowledge that like everything else in life, certain aspects of photography is all about personal preference, and some may not be as widely accepted as the others.
Olympus PEN E-PL1 with 14-42mm kit lens, mounted on tripod
However, I do think that when it comes to a shooting situation where I am presented with a scene with dynamic range being too wide, far beyond the capability of my camera to capture required details in the highlight and shadow regions, I turn to HDR method. Such as this shot taken at the park behind the KLCC Twin towers. The foreground (walking pavement) were brightly lit by strong spotlights. Having the foreground properly exposed, the buildings at the far back were lost in the shadows. Therefore, to balance the dark buildings in the background, against the strongly lit foreground, I shot three separate images at 2EV apart, with the camera and lens mounted on tripod. I then used Photomatix and merge the RAW files, producing a mild HDR effect, to have an evenly exposed images. Do I think this image is a good one? Not really, somehow it did not look as naturally convincing as I have intended, but it is naturally convincing enough. I showed this image to a few friends, and without telling them, they cannot tell it was a HDR taken shot.
I used the HDR method, not to make the image look like a HDR image. All I wanted to do was to tone down the extremes of both highlight and shadow ends.
Oh, and the bonus I got from this processing? The details in the sky. Without this HDR technique, with properly exposed foreground, the sky would have been almost pitch black. Bringing out the details from almost nothing shadow will only result in one unspeakable horror: ugly chroma noise. With HDR processing, I managed to squeeze out plenty of good cloud visibility to add drama in the sky, and the image still appear clean of noise.
HDR photography. What is your take? I do not encourage it, but as I have mentioned, when I need more dynamic range than my camera can handle, I will not hesitate to use it.