With all the advancements in technology we still don't have the ability to take pictures that can pull in the full range of light that our eyes can see. That is why you see windows that are all washed out, or lack of details in clouds in photos. The sensor on any camera can't see everything that your eye can pick up. I guess the good Lord did a pretty good job in making us. As for camera's, that's where High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography comes in. It is a crafty technique of taking several photo's of the same subject all at different exposures, then with the magic of the computer and even some cameras, blending the images together so that we can have all that tonal range in one photo. It sounds complicated but it really isn't.
On my Canon 5D mark ii, I turn on Auto Exposure Bracketting (AEB). That allows me to take 3 consecutive photo's at a range of different exposures (-2, 0, +2). It helps to use a tripod but its not necessary. I use an Apple Aperture plugin called Photomatix that helps me blend the photo's together. It has a lot of different settings so you can get just the right amount of blending for your needs.
You can end up with a natural or a surreal looking picture depending on what you like. It's a great technique and one that isn't useful for all situations but it is helpful for some where the tonal range is too great for your camera to capture on its own. Some new cameras even handle all the blending for you now.
Below is a group of AEB shots I took in my kitchen.
Below is the resulting photo after it has been blended using Photomatix.
Here are some more HDR photo's that I took recently.
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