Combining multiple photographs taken at different exposures lets you create a single image with good highlight and shadow detail. Tone-mapping applications like Qtpfsgui are the traditional way to do this, but tone-mapping is slow, difficult to use, and can produce strange visual artifacts. A new tool on the scene is easier, faster, and produces nicer results: Enfuse.
Enfuse is recent project from the developers of the panorama apps Hugin and Enblend. It is part of the Enblend package, but has not yet made it into the stable release for Linux. You can download precompiled betas of Enblend for Windows and Mac OS X from panospace.wordpress.com; Linux users can follow the directions linked at that same page to compile the software. Compilation does not take too much time, and as long as you install the listed dependencies first isn't tricky either.