At first glance, Kristain Schmidt and Shawn Heinrichs’ photos of models swimming with whale sharks off the coast of the Philippines appear heavily Photoshopped. But while the levels and colors have been manipulated and the backgrounds tweaked, the most striking part – the models’ proximity to sharks – is real.

While a bit whimsical, the photos have recently gone viral and lead to a new awareness of the whale shark, which was Schmidt and Heinrichs’ plan all along.

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