these photos show the only known relationships between humans and whale sharks. the first, third, fourth, and sixth photos were taken by shawn heinrichs near oslob in the philippines, and the others were taken by paul cowell in cenderawasih bay, west papua.
conservationist and photographer heinrichs remarks on this “rare and exciting connection”: "what was most touching was the relationship between them all. the fishermen clearly cared for these animals, and the [notoriously shy but gentle] whale sharks demonstrated such trust in them."
"having witnessed the slaughter of whale sharks at the hands of fishermen elsewhere in the region," he continued, "this interaction was a beacon of hope for me, a message that both man and whale shark could co-exist, could develop trust, and even appreciate one another."
"only in one other place in the world, papau, where some local whale sharks feed off anchovies in the nets of fishermen, has anything like this been witnessed," heinrichs remarked.
“exposing the image properly, and especially the split shots, proved to be extremely challenging,” however. “technical limitations such as limited depth of field, low available light and limited focus, combined with moving sharks and mildly choppy seas, made each shot a challenge,” he explained.
"fortunately, the fishermen were just as excited as i was about the process of capturing the images, and they patiently worked with me to get the job done properly."