I recently discovered SNS-HDR Pro. I have most of the popular HDR programs or have at least tried them. SNS is by far my favorite due to its masking capabilities. I had a single exposure image which I could not easily get the effect I wanted using LR and PS so I decided to split it into two exposures, shadows vs highlights, and import it into SNS to work on it. I got very good results.
Masking in SNS has one very powerful feature called 'Intelligent selection'. Yes it is intelligent and works very well, a surprise considering all the disappointments one encounters with market speak about all the new 'magic' tools. It works similar to the auto masking available for the local brush in LR, except that this really works. I have noticed no halos using these masks.
If I were processing Erik's image here is how I would approach it:
Low exposure and high exposure images imported into SNS.
Use setting Neutral or Natural. Adjust exposure slider and highlight recovery and other sliders to get best image.
Create first mask. Use intelligent selection to select rocks. One click of the paint bucket tool would probably work in this case. In cases where you get to much selection you can try right clicking on the unwanted area if it is significantly different than the area you want This will remove that area from the selection. Or you can use the brush with intelligent selection off and paint the area out holding the right button down. Or you can invert the mask and paint away the offending areas normally-this works good because you can see the bad areas more easily on the green overlay. Anyway there are lots of ways to easily get a good mask. This is remarkable to me considering that SNS is still in its infancy and is still missing lots of features. For example, you cannot change the brush size (oft requested), you must enlarge the view to get the effect of a smaller brush. I consider the masking outstanding and I am a intensive student of masking techniques.
With the first mask made, make a copy and invert it. We now have masks for the sky and the rocks. You can work each mask separately, changing exposure, contrast, local contrast, details, saturation, black points, color temp... almost everything. I would play with the sky area by playing with the sliders to see their effect. Midtone contrast, microdetails, and microcontast would probably have the most effect.
Then switch to the rocks mask and do the same.
Probably have a decent image by now but there is more that can be done. Create a new mask and use intelligent selection to select the blues of the sky. Now you can lighten/darken the blues, add saturation, change the hue, change the color temp and so on. As long as you don't go insane, the changes will blend in seamlessly. Note that I now have two masks for the sky area: the whole sky and just the blues. Making changes on one may involve going back to the other to adjust for effect. It is an iterative process.
Do the same for the rock area. I would like to see the highlights on the rocks brought out a little more. Increasing contrast seems to lead to a harsh result so I would try selecting a prominent highlight area as a mask and work on that.
Depending upon what you want to achieve you can get very natural results or go over the top.
Forgive my long post but I am really stoked over this program and no, I do not have any affiliation with this program. I just want to get the word out that it is worth checking out. That said, a few warnings. There is little documentation available. You have to learn by trial and error but it is not too bad. It took me awhile to figure out that the right button press converts the selection tool to erase. The rest is pretty intuitive as you can see the effects as you move the sliders. The little colored boxes beneath some sliders allow you to change the color effects by dragging points up or down, ie increase yellow saturation but nothing else. There are some major things still missing such as chromatic aberration removal, variable brush size, etc but there are usually workarounds. The developer has said he is working on these things and updates come frequently so expect things to get better. He seems to be a one man band but has done excellent work.
Some other things I have noticed. The control over color is very well done. Unlike some of the other programs, the color transitions are smoother, not harsh and contrasty. The colors have good saturation but don't look garish. Control of highlight recovery is well done. I shoot into the sun a lot for sunrises and sunsets. On some programs the transition from the sun to bright sky areas gets all funky-banding and weird colors introduced such as sun area, a red/yellow area around the sun (normal), the a greenish area (not normal), the back to the red sky. I have not noticed this with SNS.
I have attached a recent example that I did in SNS. Multiple exposure catch, I think I used two exposures in SNS. I almost deleted this image as out of the camera it looked pretty worthless. Now I rather like it. Made extensive use of masks and it did not take too long to process.
Erik, if you are still here would you be up to sending me the file? I would process it as I normally would and would keep track of the steps in tutorial form and post the results. It would be interesting to see what could be pulled out of it. I would aim at a fairly natural rendition a little on the dramatic side.