Thanks for the C.M. forum!
Here's my question: So why would I want to normalize my grayscale patches before assigning camera calibration values in ACR then turn around and apply these calibration values to images that have not been grayscale normalized? It seams to me, at least in "theory" anyway, that this method could potentially produce funky calibration values to real images because the calibration was determined in a significantly different environment than the average RAW image.
Explanation and thoughts welcome. Eric
A follow up to my original post and recent findings...
Calibration workflow: Make a target similar Varis as explained in his book 'Skin'; meter gray card and bracket shots up to 3 stops over spot meter reading. Import into ACR, (not Lightroom due lack of color samplers) zero then determine proper exposure of Row 4 Colum 3 patch (145 PPRGB). Set white balance using Row 4 Column 2.
I'm finding that normalizing the grayscale patches is in some respects camera specific.
Case in point, a properly exposed Row 4 Colum 3 patch on my Fuji S5 was 1 1/3 stops over the gray card reading. Based on this exposure all the Row 4 patches came out nearly identical to to the "ideal" ProPhoto target. No normalization was required and strait to calibration I went.
For my D300 the proper exposure for the Row 4 Colum 3 patch was two full stops over the gray card reading; because of the constricted dynamic range of the D300 it was necessary to "normalize" row 4, but each tweak was very minor and didn't leave me wondering about noticeable saturation shifts.
I guess my point in all of this is to spot meter a gray card (Robin Myers in my case) and then determine the proper exposure for Row 4 Column 3 patch based on the ProPhoto 145,145,145 ideal value. Using this approach seems to remedy much of my concern I expressed when using the Fraser method outlined in Real World Camera Raw.