Blown highlights in daylight shots
I've been taking a lot of shots lately involving greenery and flowers on a nature trail with the blue sky in the background. As you might expect, depending on the metering mode that I use and what I point the meter at, the shots either end up with the sky properly exposed (and the subject dark) or the subject properly exposed and the sky blown out. I've also tried changing the EV with similar results.
I try to salvage these shots in PP by changing the exposure, lightening the shadows, attempting to recover highlights, etc. I've gotten the best results from metering against the sky (using spot metering) and then trying to recover any shadow detail that's still present in the image. This sometimes produces acceptable images, but it ends up being a lot of work in PP and I'm likely losing some of the shadow detail.
Since the scene appears to have a higher dynamic range than the camera can handle, what's the best way to do this (short of HDR)? Would a neutral density filter help?
I'm using a Nikon D80 with the 18-200 VR lens and using RAW capture (and Bibble to PP).
I'm attaching a couple of images to give a better idea of what I'm getting.