Well, if you have no spot meter, you can still wander around with a simple reflected light meter and measure the scene. The important part is: this is not advice for choosing exposure but for choosing composition. You can't change the 1/r^2 law, so pick an image frame carefully. Find a place where light creates an interesting scene within some dynamic range. Look at chiaroscurro masters how they arranged scenes of bright light amidst darkness.
Originally Posted by jgcull
One more hint from personal experience: our eyes see like a tele lens. Yes, our image circle is quite wide but the area we actually look at is pretty narrow. So we see details in a scene much larger than they will be if photographed with a normal lens. What looks like a nice street lamp some meters away may end up a tiny spot of light in your final image.