First up, please let me state the following:
I have absolutely zero interest a debate about the relative merits of CMOS vs. the CCD back I'm using. I'm well aware of them and have read a lot about the new products coming through, even demoed a few for myself. What I am interested in is discussing how to get the most out of what I do have (Credo 60 on a Linhof Techno platform) in terms of preserving important hightlight information in high contrast scenes and getting better shadow information. Like for slide film, perhaps this is somewhat of an oxymoron...
Anyay, a bit of context.
I've been trying to shoot a cliff face including a bit of surrounding contextual information for a long-term project I'm working on. I'm trying to shoot a two shot, 6x13 panoramic stitch and am using an average lens in the Rodenstock 55mm APO-SD with a centre filter (2.5 stops... ouch...). Movements are quite extreme, so I'm suffering a lot with sharpness fall off. +/- 17mm horizontal shift, AND 10-13mm fall of the back. Always between f11-16.
Anyway, the shots I've taken so far have been frustratingly bad for many reasons, not least because I simply haven't managed yet to catch the scene under interesting light. I've tried and I've been there at times when it's beautiful in the flesh, but the foreground is always dark and if I'm to retain detail in the highlights, i.e. expose to the right with only very minimal clipping in the sky, the foreground falls very dark. Today looking at the histogram on the back when in the field I thought I'd managed to reach a good compromise exposure (although I knew the resulting shot wouldn't be very good from the get go,) with what seemed a tiny bit of space at the foot of the histogram and only a tiny bit of highlight clipping (viewing histogram on the back). I was looking forward to editing the photo and seeing what I could do with it, but on the computer my enthusiasm quickly dissapated when I lifted the shadows. Total mush, not helped by the falloff of the lens...
Anyway, attached here is a screenshot of an LCC file (when applying it I turn the vignetting correction off and just remove the colour cast to try keep the noise levels down,) the flat file preview (right frame, 17mm horizontal shift plus 10mm fall of the back), and a preview after some very rough editing. For this example I've used the Product curve in C1, along with the Pro Photo colour profile (the product profile, which usually looks good if quite low saturation, looked horribly dead.)
My question really is what would others do in this situation? Would you expose the image differently, i.e. force the highlights to white to improve the shadows, or do you have any special tricks in C1 to magically clean things up? I must admit that I'm not a C1 native and hugely prefer the Lightroom interface, so admit to getting frustrated quite quickly when trying to get the results I want. Would you resort to exposure blending and if so, what is the best way to go about doing this? I.e. is there good software that can do it in an automated sense like the photomerge function in PS, even with images to stitch as a pano?
Seriously, any advise appreciated.