Lately, I have been honing my skills at one-shot photography, which simply means to get the shot right the first time, from an exposure and compositional standpoint. I'm guessing film users did the same thing, perhaps to save money, but most of all, to capture that infinitesimal window of time that has drawn their attention. I was recently watching a Disney on Ice show, and was sitting close enough for my 250mm to track the figure skaters. I chose shutter priority, left my ISO on automatic, and chose my focus point with evaluative metering. Lastly, I activated AI Servo for focus tracking.
I had +2/3 exposure compensation for the semi-brightly-lit skaters. At first, I was confused, because I was constantly overexposing. It didn't make any sense! My focus dots were always on track with the skaters, and with evaluative metering, that area of the scene is metered based on the active AF point. It wasn't until later that it clicked in my head that the skater represented a smaller percentage compared to the rest of the frame; the larger, dimmer part of the scene was brightened, bringing the skater to a higher exposure value than I wanted. In the end, -1 exposure compensation gave the results I wanted, with consistency. Lesson-learned? Keep the entire scene in mind!
Something else that has really helped me is the Zone System, established by Ansel Adams. Earlier this year, I had bought one of his books, "The Negative". He has essentially divided the visible spectrum into ten zones, from pure black (shadow, Zone I) to pure white (highlight, Zone X). Zone V is right in the middle, also known as 18% gray. Zone III and Zone VII are the zones where textural detail becomes significant. That could be why the ±2 exposure compensation bar reads no more and no less. It's given the photographer plenty of latitude to expose the scene as he desires. Being able to accurately identify zones in a scene is something that only lots of experience can teach, and with photography, the experiences are timeless!
Lastly, another night shooting session is in order, and we have another fresh recruit! Let's see what happens.