Beginner Bright weather, long exposures and blow outs

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Went on a recent trip to America and took some pics. I took only my G12 as I didn't want to risk damage to the 70D as well as minimising what I needed to carry. I faced three problems.

1. When outdoors and shooting in bright conditions, I used spot metering to bring out the foreground whilst blowing out the background. Whilst I knew this was the trade off, was there any way I could have to help things? Quite often the objects were a good few metres away and I don't think flash would have helped. Or would I be left with combining multiple exposures to get what I wanted? Would a graduated filter have helped?

2. Shooting longish exposures of water fountains and the like were very difficult, even in the shade. There was simply too much light around. I tried using the inbuilt ND filter but it wasn't enough. How can I work out what kind of ND filters I'd need?

3. Is it possible to shoot a photo of someone in the daylight with long exposure for the background (say a waterfall), but freezing the foreground? Would rear curtain flash help or in such strong ambient light, would it just be impossible?

It was generally very very bright there. The amount of ambient light especially including reflected light was immense. I wore polarised sunglasses for the entire time.
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Efrem Zimbalist Jr
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1. Hard to answer without some examples of what you did achieve, with Exif data.

2. Ditto.

3. It's possible if the background is brighter than the foreground, but otherwise your long exposure gives you a blurry foreground too. Again, some examples of what you achieved would help.
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1) I use spot metering for the same reason and turn down the high light in post. I think you really have to understand the limitation of the equipment. When I get into that situation I turn on my highlight blinkies and play with the exposure adding light. Generally I can get an idea of how far I am blowing the highlights this way and keep them as low as possible while giving the subject more light. After a while you get a good idea of where you need to be in order to save the shot in post. The other thing you can do is to look at the histogram to see how far you are blowing the highlights and adjust from there.

2) It sounds like you are pushing to hard. Once again do not expect miracles when trying to balance the exposure. The simple fix here is to wait. The sun will go down and the light will be perfect if you spend a little time planning your shot.. I always plan my shooting days around the light. Sure a filter ca get you around the issue but think about shooting the same shot in the beautiful light at the end of the golden hour.

3) I think and I stress think,,, that you could use a filter for the waterfall and flash for the subject.

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Don't be afraid to "experiment" with things either and resort to PP after the event, sometimes you don't have the luxury to wait for the perfect light, and sometimes, PP is the best way.

Hell, when I was in Yosemite I got chatting to a guy doing waterfall shots in the middle of the day, his filters weren't strong enough so we put my Aviator sun glasses in front and despite the slight colour tint it worked perfectly and he was converting to B&W anyway.

1) It probably wouldn't have hurt, other option was merging multiple exposures
2) experiment, carry varying ones and go from there. Unless you're carrying an external light meter and a ND filter chart to help you get close it comes down to experimentation and experience.
3) Again, 2 shots merged in PP would have worked.

A lot of people dislike PP because it ruins the art of photography, and I agree you should get it as best in camera as you can, but if the final result is exactly what you want then who cares how you got there :)