I can't remember too many topics that have brewed on-going debates as much as HDR has. In case you've been hibernating for a while, High Dynamic Range (HDR) has been around for a while, and - in my opinion - was originally introduced to allow you to get the full range of highlights and shadows in a challenging situation. Imagine for example shooting a room in a beautiful home, but the room has bright light streaming in from the large windows. It would next to impossible to capture the correct exposure for the room without blowing out the windows. Expose for the window light and the rest of the room would be too dark.
So along comes an interesting solution: take multiple photos on a tripod (bracketing multiple exposures) and use software to take the best of each exposure to create a finished piece. In my room example that would mean a nice mixture of a properly exposed room with the windows bringing in just the right amount of light.
To me, that's always been the benefit of HDR: getting the full range of light. In fact, in a discussion with Adobe over the future of HDR, I suggested calling it Full Dynamic Range (although "FDR" did sound a lot like a former President).
I'm going to be honest and say that I'm not a fan of the highly processed/bordering on fantasy style of HDR. Honestly, to me maybe one out of 10 photos looks good with that highly-processed look. Maybe I'm just seeing too much of it? I'm not sure.
What I do find surprising, since in my mind HDR is really a solution to a lighting challenge is when people say things like "this would be a great angle to take an HDR shot of this building". That means they are going looking for places and things to shoot as an HDR. To each his own I guess - personally I keep bracketing and HDR in my back pocket as a solution for an exposure challenge.
I'm not saying that everyone should think this way.... although I would say this: that slider that makes things look highly processed/fantasy/Harry Potter? Would you mind not pushing it quite so far? Pretty please?