Yes, hi David.
You apparently are the lucky owner of two of the world's most advanced cameras, a D800 and a D7100, both with usable Photographic Dynamic Ranges close to 11 stops
, so your need for bracketing is minimized compared to someone who shoots with cameras based on older technology. Add to this the fact that a completely functioning and adapted eye can see only about 12.3 stops of DR
and one realizes that bracketing with cameras such as yours today is an infrequent exception for special occasions rather than the rule. The same is not true for all current DSLRs, however. Canons, for instance, are typically limited to about 9 stops of PDR.
So then the question for you shifts to a different one: most images are squeezed into 8-bit jpeg files and/or viewed on monitors/prints that can normally render 9 stops or less, with contrast ratios of around 250 or 8 stops being a high norm in practice. So what do we do with the extra couple of stops of DR that recent Nikon DSLRs capture - just let them get lost in the display medium's murky shadows? Of course not. You've got the information, use it at its best. That's where ADL comes into the picture.
From now on, I will turn ADL off because it interferes a bit with my ETTR thinking and I can better compensate for high contrast scenes by bracketing....as the experts have said here all along! Sometimes, I learn slow
If you ETTR in 2013 you probably shoot Raw in full manual mode
, setting shutter speed and f/number according to your artistic costraints of blur, DOF and retained highlights while selecting ISO for the desired balance of SNR, DR and SOOC output brightness. If that's the case ADL does not 'interfere a bit with [your] ETTR thinking'.
It doesn't change anything in your Exposure. All it does is intelligently process
the 11 stops of your captured PDR to fit into a couple less. It does an excellent job of it. So good that I personally find it quite a time saver in PP to have the NEF look just like that when first opened by the raw converter (CNX2 in my case). Not to mention the much better looking SOOC jpegs.
If you do not shoot in full manual mode, ADL is even smarter than that, but that's the subject for a different post. So don't be afraid of ADL, it's just another advanced tool in your photographer's toolbox. An excellent one at that, so study it and learn how to use it to your advantage, if at all.
PS Perhaps your other sources shoot with lower PDR cameras?