Frustrating Experiments with HDR

HDR version

Original {the middle of the bracketed set}

HDR version

original {the middle of the bracketed set}

Sirmione, Italy

 When we were in Italy last October, I bracked a LOT of my photographs {took three photographs at different exposures} with the thought that I would attempt some HDR images {HDR = High Dynamic Range} when we returned. Where better to find interesting textures? In a nutshell, you take photos at different exposures and "combine" them to get a deeper texture and depth.

So I FINALLY googled reference sites for HDR and played with the HDR functionality in Photoshop. I found the best tutorial at Photoshop Cafe. But still I would like to thoroughly understand the various sliders and levels, the optimum order to use them, how they interact. I like to understand what I am doing so that I can work to improve. Right now the outcome is too crisp for my liking. And some of the bracketed sets just mix too intensely and you can't see much of anything.

I've shared the middle of each bracketed set {minimally processed in PS} along with the HDR version. 

So I am frustrated but I will keep trying and keep researching. 

What experiments have frustrated you lately?