Photo by @shonephoto (Robbie Shone) - Two days left to submit to @natgeoyourshot assignment - “EPIC" - This photograph captures a time and place that to me has left a lasting memory of being truly epic. In 1980, the year I was born, a team of British cave explorers embarked on a 3 month expedition to Mulu National Park in Sarawak, Malaysia where they discovered Sarawak Chamber, which for many decades was widely regarded as the world’s largest cave chamber. The chamber is so big, eight Boeing 747 aeroplanes can fit nose to tail across the width of this vast chamber! Hearing about this for the first time left me mesmerised. For me, photographing pitch black spaces is what I live for, I just love the challenge, and this was literally the biggest challenge of all!
This picture is a panoramic photograph of five portrait images blended together showing the lower half of Sarawak Chamber. In 2011, I remember setting up my tripod on a massive rock located on the upper slopes of the giant boulder field. It reminded me of an iceberg, just the top was sticking out above a sea of smaller boulders - who knows how deep it went! I started photographing in the morning, beginning on the left side of the image, where mist and wisps of thin cloud lingered. By the evening, when I had worked my way across to the right of the image, the air was crystal clear. It took over eight hours from when I first opened the shutter to when I closed the shutter to capture this image. It was a long time with just a bag of peanuts! I had five assistants with me, and for each photograph I would reposition them. In some cases this took 40 minutes for the assistant to travel from one position to the next. One photographic assistant thought ahead and brought in a book to read in between shots. Once the assistants were in place, the next challenge was to get the lighting to match the previous photograph so that an even blend would be made when stitching together. For this reason, this is one of the hardest photographs I’ve ever had to take. The whole thing was an epic experience, from the huge size of the chamber, to the epic efforts by the team that made this happen.