another option to play with for you is to shoot bracketing.
definitly something to look up, but can yeild some interesting results and help provide a learning curve.
if you set one of your bracket shots up to be quite over exposed (or at least appears that way) and then post process that one, I'm willing to bet that one will likely end up looking the sharpest and most crisp (as long as it wasn't too over exposed) The other thing that is fun with this, if you're on a tripod, it gives you more opportunity with other photos and doing HDR in the future when you get used to all the post processing.
over all, look at the photos that come out the best, and check what settings were in the camera, then use that as your bench mark and you can improve upon it from there.
if one picture has great background blur, but stop action, all those settings will show up in your pictures data.