Quote Originally Posted by jamesiscool
It is important to understand that many many photographers have made wonderful luminous prints without the benefit of masking or any other technique other than exposing and developing their film properly (knowing your material) and learning how to convey your vision onto your printing material. Not rocket science. There are many ways to achieve what you are looking for and masking is one. Also bleaching, dye dodging, and flashing of which AA made numerous mentions in his books. But even though he wanted to impart as much information to us in his writings, he knew he couldn't include all of the information about all of the techniques used by photographers and printers. So he wrote a very basic set of instructions which you now must improve upon. And it seems you are searching for it.
Certainly there is no denying that knowledge of one's materials and technique is the beginning of producing a work that is satisfying. I had the good fortune about 14 years ago of meeting a photographer that had studied under Ansel Adams for two years. His name is Charles Phillips. Charles at the time that I met him initially had developed a technique in which he did a tri tone negative separation (shadows, midtones, and highlights). From these separations he produced masks that would allow the printing of each of these tonal separations at different contrast filtrations using VC material. The reason, as I am sure that you by now know, is that the characteristic curve of both the film and the paper treat the shadow, and highlight densities differently then the midtone densities which fall on the straight line portion of the aformentioned curve. By using higher contrast filtration on the toe and shoulder portion of the respective materials the print exhibits incredible tonal separation in these regions. The print comes alive and exhibits a quality of light that I have not observed in anyones work at any time. Obviously you already know that.

Now what I am doing is not nearly as involved as Charles Phillips since I am separating the negative densities into only two regions. These are the combination of either the midtone and highlights---separating the shadows. Or a combination of the shadows and midtones with the highlights separated. The separation will depend on the image and the tonal balance. What this accomplishes is that I can now print the image with two separate contrast filtration settings. The prints produced in this fashion exhibit greater local contrast. You understand, I am sure, that this contributes to apparent sharpness and light within the print.

I am sure that this is "old hat" to you and quite probably you have already thought this out and refined it further. I would be interested in hearing your further thoughts on the matter.