I've been experimenting with a new method (new for me that is) of getting correct, but also more artistic exposures when using 4x5 black and white negative film, and early evidence suggests it might be working. Even though the composition is a little off, this is probably one of my best ever images in terms of achieving clear rendition across the whole tonal range. as well as giving the image a little punch without sacrificing detail in shadow and highlight areas. It could do with a little dodging and burning, but for the sake of being able to show an unaltered image I left it as is. Even without any adjustments, you get a nice sense of light and that wouldn't be possible if I simply went with an an exposure based on average readings. The physical scene itself is fairly low contrast and in order to get this image, I had to use a colour filter over the lens and alter development in order to achieve a greater sense of drama and atmosphere.
As a comparison, here's another shot of the same scene in very similar lighting. Looking at it, you'd think I shot this on an overcast day. Being a bit unadventurous, I averaged out the light meter readings, didn't use a colour filter and didn't adjust development. I got reasonable tone, but the final result is very drab and lifeless. I could probably bring it back to life somewhat, but that would take a lot of work! On the other hand, achieving the top image is just a case of inverting the negative and correcting the levels. In analog terms, the top would print very easily, where as the bottom image would take some serious effort to extract something interesting. The main difference is that all the information of the top image is already in the negative, the bottom doesn't have this extra information.