Quote Originally Posted by Graeme Hird

You are approaching this question with a clear head, and I think you are on the right track. But then again, what else could I say? I do the very same thing: Expose the film as per the system espoused by AA to control the contrast, then develop by inspection to get the appropriate highlight detail.

Good luck,
you really need to get a spot meter - for most subjects the best procedure is to locate the shadow area that you want to record detail in. Spot that area and set it for zone 3 or 4. Then check to see what your significant highlights will be and if they are much past zone 8, you know you will need to compensate for the extra contrast in development.

spot your low and check your high. simple and painless.