Ansel Adams was a staunch promoter of the axiom, “Expose for the shadows, print for the highlights.”
I agree, because when we consider the limit of textures that reside in the dark areas of our shots, we realize we can’t recover those patterns if we underexpose (especially in digital). Thus, I often spot meter my darkest areas to Zone V, all the while visualizing where those tones will fall in the print (Adams referred to print tones as values, not zones–only the metering areas, pre-negative, were zones). For this image, I visualized the second layer of leaves as just visible, or printed as a Value II (dark, but still relaying basic levels of texture). Thus, I adjusted my shutter speed to underexpose those shadows by 2 1/2 stops, moving them to Zone II.
Then, using NIK’s SilverEfx Pro (what I consider the true digital era black-and-white darkroom), I was able to do a push process (expansion of N +1.5) to build contrast and grain, while still building the drama present in the subtle highlights of light on the top layer of leaves.
I’ve said this before (see my Reading List link in the navigation bar), but reading Adam’s series of works The Camera, The Negative, and The Print are immensely helpful in learning the methods of visualization necessary to realize and produce the prints we feel, not just see.