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.
Originally Posted by jamesiscool
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.