I tried to reply a few hours ago but half-way through the electric power went out. After it came back on I started to reply again and guess what... power went out again. I'm very apprehensive while replying this third time.
> Meter and ISO won't change the result. You are at the limit of the > cameras dynamic range. So you can either add fill light or you can > buy a camera with more range.
Maybe this is a good reason to upgrade to a D600, just kidding. It looks like what I need to do is get a better understanding of difficult lighting conditions and dynamic range limitations and adjust my shooting style and/or expectations accordingly.
> Exposure compensation is what you use if you need to open up > shadows or bring down highlights.
I was thinking of that but decided there was such a wide range of lighting conditions that any adjustment would either blow-out or underexpose something, so I just left it neutral (zero).
> These images seem to be exposed well considering the fairly > harsh light. The bright sunlight and the dark shadows exceed > the dynamic range of the camera.
Yes, probably so. See my answer to Perrone above.
> If your prints do not match what you see on screen you may > need to calibrate your monitor. Then use D-Lighting (or > highlights & shadows in Photoshop) to open up the shadows > until it prints right.
Actually, I use a NEC MultiSync PA241W that is calibrated for best viewing of photographic material. Even the commercially printed photographs had a greater loss of shadow detail than the posted ones here. Something went wrong somewhere.
A big thank you to everyone for your suggestions and expertise, it is greatly appreciated.