Those who love nature know that it’s sometimes challenging to inspire others to care. In an effort to raise awareness about whale sharks, cinematographer and conservation journalist Shawn Heinrichs brainstormed a new tactic. He teamed up with fashion and nature photographer Kristian Schmidt and juxtaposed beautiful women—who people never lose interest in—with the sea’s biggest shark, creating a striking, ethereal portfolio of underwater images.
“Recognizing that people only protect what they care about, we hatched a plan that would combine my underwater and marine life photography expertise with Kristian’s mastery of creative fashion photography,” Heinrichs writes on his website, Blue Sphere Media. Their team included a dive specialist and models experienced working underwater. “Our goal was to introduce a much larger global community to the beauty and wonder of these gentle and vulnerable creatures,” he said in an email.
In the Philippines, for example, whale shark populations were decimated throughout the 1980s and 90s in order to collect their valuable fins for the Asian shark fin trade. Poaching in the area still continues, though it is done in secret and no one knows the full extent of the killings. Occasionally, a whale shark carcass washes up on the shores of local villages, stripped of its fins and pushed overboard while still alive. “What about all the other ones they didn’t find because sharks don’t float?” Heinrichs wonders.
In addition to producing the high fashion images, Heinrichs also produces this video, documenting local Philippine communities that seek to protect their natural heritage:
And here are more images from Heinrichs and Schmidt’s photo shoot:
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