Quote Originally Posted by bpm32
I metered on an "important" low, which at a shutter speed of 200, came in at f5.6.....

The worst part is, I never adjusted the camera... I just exposed the darn neg at f5.6 @200...

So, my question is... can I develop this negative in a way such that it would bring that "important" low down to where I intended it to be AND contract that range so the "important" high will be at or near zone VII?
1) The only 'important' low as far as I'm concerned is the lowest one. Use a spot meter and find that low. Then calculate an exposure that will place that low on whatever zone is appropriate to your particular working methods. I put it on zone IV. Most people use zone III.

2) Then scan the scene again in search of the brightest highlight. See where that falls at whatever exposure you obtained in Step 1). In my philosophy, if that highlight falls on zone VIII, I'll mark the holder for N development. If it falls on Zone IX, N-1; Zone X, N-2, etc. For each zone of minus development, I add 1/2 stop of exposure. If the brightest highlight falls on Zone VII, I'll mark it N+1.

To summarize: You place the shadows where you want them. You then see where the highlights fall for that shadow placement. You control the highlights with development. This is because the shadows are affected mostly by exposure and almost not at all by development.

Since your exposure in this case was at least two stops over (assuming that your 'important low' would've been placed on zone III), an N-2 development should get your highlights into printable range. The shadows won't be affected much by the development, but that's ok. You're far better off to have given them too much exposure than not enough. You'll still have a good printable negative. The answer to your question is 'yes', you can. Give it N-2 or maybe N-3 and it should be fine.

Remember that a meter sees everything as an 18% reflectance neutral gray.