I think anything it takes to get a print you want is fair game. I spent a lot of time in the darkroom with Ansel, and I never saw him make "straight" print. The images always needed a little more light here, a little less there. He even bleached a print once when he couldn't get the high values to be as brilliant as he wanted. I have a negative from China that I could never print by myself because it needed simultaneous dodging in the areas that needed burning.

I started formalizing my technique that I call Selective Masking in the late 1980's and first published it in ViewCamera magazine in the late '90's. I call it "selective" masking because it it purely personal - rather than being photometric like "unsharp" masking. I have the ability to lighten or darken any particular part of a subject - or even adjust local contrast. Carried to a desired degree, it can transform a difficult-to-print image into a button-push, with all the desired dodging and burning built in to a mask.

With regard to a previous comment, the technique does not work with condenser enlargers, but WILL work with any diffusion enlarger - color-head, cold-light, etc. The negative carrier for masking requires a thin light-table-like diffuser in contact or near contact with the back of the negative between it and the light-source. Because condensers owe their efficiency to the fact that they project collimated rays of light through the negative, when you place a diffuser in the light path, effective light intensity is reduced by MANY stops and there are unevenness issues as well.

If you would like more information on this technique, there is a blog on the topic on my website. It has completely changed my control of the printing process!

Golondrinas w without mask.jpg