Outdoors, I'd strongly recommend ALWAYS getting your wide coverage first. Once the look is established (overcast and diffused, or bright and sunny), you know what you have to match in your tighter coverage - and matching lighting in a close-up is tremendously easier than the alternative.
Having decent sized HMIs available certainly makes it easier, but effective time-of-day scheduling is perhaps the best thing you can do.
Larger overhead frames (and the stands and manpower to wrangle them) also make exteriors much easier to deal with.
I agree with Mark except for the part about “ALWAYS getting your wide coverage first.” Sometimes what you are presented with at first is not ideal and it is better to wait to shoot the master until the light is right. A good example of waiting for the opportune time to shoot the master shot is a scene I once lit for an indie feature that took place around a campsite surrounded by woods. The problem with shooting in the clearings of woods is that the sun moves across them much faster than one would think – making it hard to maintain continuity in a dialogue scene. What we did was net the talent area with a 20x20 double and throw dried leaves on top of the net to create foliage break-up. We did this even though the talent area was in full sun because we knew the scene was going to take a while to shoot and our charting of the sun’s path showed the area would be in shade within the hour. So in order to maintain continuity we created shade from the outset. We also figured out where the sun was going to be throughout the day and where it would look best for our establishing wide shot, and lit our close coverage to match.
Where the scene consisted mostly of two shots, mostly over the shoulder of one character talking to the second character who was standing with his back to the breakfast campfire with the woods behind him, we decided the scene would look best when the sun had moved into a near back light position for him. Since we were shooting under the double net with leaves we didn’t need lights any bigger than a 4k Par. The 4k was heavily diffused and positioned so that it gave the talent facing the camera the most attractive modeling. We also positioned a 1.2kw Par without diffusion where the sun would be when we would shoot the wide so that there would be a consistent edge throughout the scene.
When the time came to shoot the establishing shot, the shadow of the overhead frame and stands were thrown forward and did not interfere with the wider framing. Since we were still shooting under the net, we were wider open on the iris and so our exposure dug into the dark woods and brought out more detail. As an added bonus the smoke from the campfire drifted into the woods, creating shafts of light where the sun broke through the tree canopy. What could easily have been a disjointed scene without continuity, turned into a beautifully lit scene, and was accomplished without a lot of amps. The whole scene was lit with nothing more than a 4k and 1.2k Par and powered by nothing more than a 60A/120 circuit from a modified 7500W Honda EU6500is. To record dialogue without picking up the sound of the generator, we ran several hundred feet of 30A/250V twist-lock cable from the generator to set and used a step-down transformer/distro to boost the voltage to compensate for line loss over the long cable run. The Honda EU6500is is so quiet that running it at that distance was all the attenuation needed.
Guy Holt, Gaffer, ScreenLight & Grip, Lighting Rental & Sales in Boston