Masking can be useful for things like this, but best to keep it simple with dodging and burning if possible.
Shaped cut-outs can sometimes be more trouble than they are worth. This tree does not look like it should be that difficult to dodge with a small dodging tool throughout the base exposure. You can "travel" slowly along the shape of the tree, adjusting the shape of the tool's shadow as you go. This can work very well unless the tree needs so much dodging that the entire tree needs to be covered for the length of the base exposure. In that case a tree-shaped cutout can work. But here is how to make a good cutout:
With your image focused on the easel, put something a few inches thick on the easel and then put a piece of cardboard on top of that to draw the shape on. The purpose here is to have the cutout tree be smaller than it is in the print. This way, when you are holding the cardboard tree shape a few inches above the easel while burning, its shadow will be the right size, and will also have diffused edge ("penumbra"). This will make it much easier to dodge the tree without leaving a halo around it. If your cutout was the size of the tree on the easel, you'd have to hold it right at the easel plane while dodging. No good.
The height at which you should draw your shape (and dodge during the exposure) depends on the complexity of the shape, and the print size/magnification.
Another thing that can help when dodging with the tree cut-out: Rather than only moving it around in the horizontal plane, try also raising and lowering the cut-out while dodging.
Depending on how light or dark the areas around the tree are, split grade filtering can also be a useful technique.
Hope this helps.
Last edited by Michael R 1974; 07-24-2012 at 12:34 PM. Click to view previous post history.