Awesome work, Adrian! I'm getting hungry just looking at the food shots, and am quite envious that you got to shoot a McLaren.
Not all HDR,s have to look unreal , careful use of different exposures and layers as opposed to default HDR rendering can look goog.
I agree 100%. IMHO, layering in multiple exposures to extend the dynamic range of an image is a must in order to bridge the gap between what the camera sees and what the human eye sees. In other words, it should look so natural that people don't even know that it's HDR.
This isn't a particularly good image, but exposing for a dark car like this will often blow out the sky entirely. Furthermore, since the top of the quarter panels are white, they were blown out as well. Obviously, this isn't how my eye captured the image when looking through the viewfinder.
An easy fix was to layer in a second exposure that was properly exposed for the sky. An ND grad filter may have been used to enhance the effect, but I don't remember, as this shot was take five years ago.
This is far more representative of what the scene actually looked like. Technically, it's HDR, but it was done to make the image appear more natural, not like a cartoon. IMHO, overly processed HDR is a pathetic gimmick that's often used as a substitute for basic photographic skills, and it needs to go away
Some people can pull it off, but they are the exception to the rule.