A week ago, on a fairly quiet Sunday evening, I packed some photography gear and headed out to Ħal Qormi, specifically to shoot a cave at the start of Wied Ħanżir. I had been to this cave before, and passed by a few times on a walk I like to do through Wied Qirda and Wied Ħanżir. However, I had not tried to make any photos here before. The cave itself is properly known as Għar Ħanżir, and can be found where Wied il-Kbir forks into Wied Qirda and Wied Ħanżir. It can also be found referred to as Għar tas-Slaleb, because of the carved crosses at the start of the cave.
I knew going in that this would be a very technical shoot. The space is a bit cramped and dirty, so I would only want to take in what I know I would use and could carry on my person. And with light coming in from only one entrance there would be an extreme exposure range to deal with. The view I had in mind was from the back end of the main cave looking out. I set up accordingly on a low tripod with my trusty 17-40mm lens, and started with some readings on the spot meter. I had a range of over 14 stops to deal with, so I took a set of exposures across that range, mostly one stop apart. The final photo is a composite of nine exposures, blended manually.
Processing this took some time. For starters, I have not done work like this for a long time. I also experimented with a couple of automatic exposure fusion methods but I wasn’t happy with the results, so I threw it all out. In the end, I just blended this manually, starting with the brightest exposure and selectively overlaying this with darker exposures as I worked my way towards the entrance. Once that was done, some selective curves layer adjustments took care to balance the overall exposure, and a subtle colour filter to take into soften the strong colour cast from the reflected light.