Tuesday, September 29, 2015


Today is my day off work and the day that each week I ship the bulk of the orders of my closeout spiders. It's actually not a full day off as I have to go in 5:30 to 7:30 to teach a class using our Virtra simulator that utilizes shoot, don't shoot scenarios.

I won't be able to get all pending orders out today and should be boxing them up instead of typing, but I thought I'd post a quick hello and direct you to the comment section below my recent FINAL COMMENT post (#77) on the whole FedEx/USPS shipping can of worms. John Apple commented informing us that there actually IS a process where you can get "approved" to ship arachnids via FedEx. He will be my houseguest next week and I hope he'll sit here at my laptop and hunt and peck off an explanation of this as a "guest blogger". So watch for that...

I am now only 5 days from seeing my best mate/top bloke Mark. I look forward to my drive to the airport. I'll be posting pics from his visit to this blog, especially of our October 9 ArachnoParty that is open to anyone who can make the trip. It will be Camp SpiderShoppe, my last hurrah, so bring a sleeping bag, pillow and a toothbrush. I do have one spot open in my bed, but photos and safe words will have to be exchanged prior to the invite ;) (Sorry, couldn't resist). Party attendees will be able to pick through my 'GARAGE SALE' of jars, cereal containers, a few acrylics, ExoTerras, cork, plants, misc deli cups, etc. and I'll be letting them set the price and donating the funds to the Wounded Warrior Project or some other similar cause.

Hopefully Andy Daugherty and his "crue" will be making an appearance this time and there should be a few new faces as well.

OK, back to finishing the boxes and packing the spiders. I'm going to have to drop off at FedEx on my way to work at 4:30 and I'll begin running out of time if I don't shut down my electronic devices. I think the soundtrack for this morning's work with be Opeth Blackwater Park ...

As a final word, I am open to negotiations on my remaining inventory. I just want it gone. Email reasonable offers to spidershoppe@icloud.com. Those who can pickup at my party or have delivered in Chicagoland will get the best deals.

Have a good rest of the week. See some of you in just over a week.


Sunday, September 27, 2015


My iPhone started yelling at me at 5:30 a.m. It wasn't a pleasant sound. I'm an early to bed, early to rise sort of guy, but last night after a special event at work and myself and some of my colleagues retired to the local watering hole once we closed shop. I had some drinks and cheated on my diet a bit. I was up later than is my norm.

Today was actually my first real day off in a couple of weeks. I've been working six day weeks with only Tuesday off, but the Tuesday isn't really a day of rest as that is my spider shipping day. So, the "SPIDERSHOPPE" is still open on Tuesdays. So after a stretch of 17 or 18 working days in a row why did I set my alarm for o' dark thirty? Because I had a BTS Committee meeting to attend!

No, I didn't take a red eye to the Hilton in Bracknell, UK, west of London, where the meeting was held at noon (6 a.m., my time). I attended the three and a half hour meeting via Skype. In my underpants!

Here is my view of the meeting from the perspective of Mark Pennell. I nodded off a few times, but for 3.5 hours I sat here at my desk and took part in the meeting. Straight ahead is Chairman Peter Kirk. On either side of him are Ange and Ray Hale. The hands belong to Kim Pennell and the shaved head bloke behind them is Lee Cole who is blocking his wife Shelley. Across from them is the membership team of Phil and Erin, and the closest on the right side of the screen is Dr. Stuart Longhorn, BTS Treasurer. Out of picture is Mark, whose laptop was showing the committee my sleepy carcass (bottom right inset image) and Martin Nicholas who was to Mark's left. This is our entire BTS committee taking care of the business of running the world's greatest and longest running tarantula society.

As I mentioned previously, I am taking the reins of the Journal of the British Tarantula Society and it will be my number one priority when it comes to the tarantula hobby. During the meeting we decided that Pete will serve as editor for the next Journal, which he and I are currently editing articles for, and then I will pilot it moving forward. For those of you who remember my ARACHNOCULTURE magazine (2005-2007), one of my features was "Inner View". This was my interview with some of arachnoculture's leading forces. The first was Rick West, followed by Andrew Smith, Elizabeth Mulé,  Steve Nunn, Ray Gabriel, and Volker von Wirth with Martin Huber. As I take over as Editor of the Journal, an interview feature will return. This time BTS membership co-administrator Phil Geraghty will interview me for the first issue with me at the helm. I expect one question will be: "Why the hell is a bloody American editing a British society's publication?

One other thing decided at the BTS meeting this morning/afternoon was with regards to the competition at the annual May Exhibition. I will be judging the photography and artwork categories and also will be photographing the entered spiders and scorpions instead of Peter Kirk. The live spider and scorpion categories will be judged by Mark Pennell and Stuart Longhorn, perhaps with the aid of a "guest judge" likely to be mon ami Jean-Michel Verdez.

After the meeting I just wanted to crawl back into bed but I had some errands that needed to be taken care of. One included buying Tiger lager and Jameson's whiskey for my ArachnoParty at my home Friday, October 9. I came home so exhausted that I fell back asleep immediately and missed my scheduled noon rendezvous with Randy Martinez to deliver him some spiders. When I woke again at 3:30 p.m. I had to send apologies and reschedule.

Yes, time flies, and Mark Pennell will be here NEXT SUNDAY!!! Can't wait to see my mate and spend a week with him. It also means that one week from Tuesday will be spent finishing the tattooing of my right sleeve! We have one more major piece to add to my "tricep" and then loads of roses and stuff for gap filling. Have some surprises in store for Mark and we'll also go shooting at least twice. On Saturday morning after the party all of those who sleep over at my house will join me for breakfast at a local restaurant and then Chad, Mark and I will hit the range to make some smoke and noise.

I am hoping some of the party attendees will help me out by taking home some of the empty jars, containers and cages that used to hold many tarantulas. After Tuesday's ship-out, my collection will be really small and I am now going to end this blog to work on further slashing a few prices on my remaining closeout list and perhaps add a few more things. I will be dismantling some of the shelving racks this week and reclaiming my spider room as an office that holds a small collection of spiders. Transitions. Changes. All for the good and mental health. Sell off spiders, buy yourself your dream $4000 handgun (Wilson Combat Hackathorn Special). Win, win.

Catch y'all soon ... MJ

Friday, September 25, 2015


Some douchebag emailed me today with a clever subject that was something like "you're wrong". He was some nobody I've never heard of before and I don't recall the name and certainly didn't waste my time with a reply. His message was deleted as fast as spam. Papa always said, "never have a battle of wits with an unarmed man". I did quickly read his message though and it basically stated that people take my word as gospel (well, the gospel is bullshit, so I hope they give me more credit than that ... AND ... I hope people make up their own minds no matter how much they respect my opinion). He argued that I was misleading people by saying that FedEx shipping of tarantulas is legal (my most recent Arachnobored advert stated "legal shipping" just to stir up more shit about USPS shipping). Well, FedEx shipping is legal. ... Technically, at least. Now I know that FedEx prohibits shipping tarantulas and other arachnids because they are venomous, but that doesn't make it illegal. I understand his point that shipping arachnids technically violates FedEx policies. He's right. But ... FedEx is a private company. It is not unlawful to break their rules. They can ban you as a shipper, but they can't charge you with a crime. There is no law saying that you must follow FedEx or UPS or DHL or whatever rules and regulations. The United States Postal Service, on the other hand, is a government agency and federal law applies to their shipping regulations. It IS ILLEGAL to ship via USPS. That's the distinction. It may be splitting hairs, but it is the situation we are left with. I ship via FedEx as an APPROVED REPTILE SHIPPER using Superior Shipping Supplies' service. We are forced to use the only carrier (FedEx) that is willing to have a program for accepting packages of reptiles. We are forced to pretend like we are shipping snakes instead of spiders. The dbag stated that the only legal way to ship venomous arachnids is the same as it is for venomous snakes as tarantulas are considered equal to gaboon vipers. That is, by air freight (e.g. Delta Dash air cargo, which all venomous snake shippers use). His mistake is to use the word "legal" as I have already pointed out. He may be right that expensive air freight is the only method that doesn't break carrier regulations, but there is no crime in shipping arachnids by FedEx. They are just a company. You can't be arrested for breaking the policies of the company I work for and I expect it's the same with your employer. Get it? Actually his other mistake was to email me at all.

I know ... much of the above is semantic and pedantic. Splitting hairs and doing the best we can. It doesn't matter to me. I probably have less than a dozen more boxes to ship in my career. I haven't a fuck to give. But I'm so glad the dbag had the therapeutic experience of telling me I am wrong. I'm only here to help.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


I just got off the phone with Frank Somma. He asked about this blog and commented on me "calling out" some newbie named Widowlover or Widow keeper or whatever the guy's nom de guerre is in a previous blog. Frank accused me of "not liking newbies" and made the point that we all were n00bs one day and we became "experts" by sharing info with each other. The first part is false. The second is very true. 35 years ago I was fortunate to have the mentorship of guys like Ralph Henning and Rick West. Apparently Frank knows this widow guy (Nick Krueger?) and says he is eager to learn. Good for him. For the record, I am not against newbies and have spent three decades educating them and patiently answering a zillion emails or, back in the day, letters. My book, my instructional video, my ARACHNOCULTURE magazine, my articles in various publications, my lectures in the USA and UK, my ArachnoGathering, my Tarantula Bibliography, etc. etc. fucking, etc. prove that I have always been eager to educate and guide "newbies" along. I was in the retail pet industry for 33 years! I've educated more novice keepers than most. I certainly don't have a problem with n00bs! That's nonsense. What I have a problem with is people who are novices that instantly become dealers. Dealers should be experienced keepers who can educate their customers, not beginners themselves. I've said this all before and I am loathe to repeat it again. WALK, BEFORE YOU RUN! Gain experience, get an apprenticeship, invest some years, then start making yourself out to be a pseudo dealer. That's the last time I'll say any of this.

Believe me, I am not going to repeat it. As I mentioned in today's earlier blog entry, moving forward it is going to be increasingly difficult for me to come up with topics for this blog. As I further distance myself from the hobby and move closer to keeping zero live animals, this blog will atrophy. I don't have any more rants. I'm not going to call anyone out. John Apple wants to expose all the brown boxers and USPS shippers and you know from previous blog posts that I support this. But I don't have the energy and I no longer am involved with social media or forums. My only voice is here at KISS MY BIG FUCKING HAIRY SPIDER and I've already said my piece. I give little thought to the hobby now outside of the POWER OF THREE I mentioned earlier. 

Topics are becoming harder to come by. Eventually I will run out of TALES FROM THE FIELD. I will be in Costa Rica in December so that will give me a few additional TFTF posts. Serious topics will be covered in BTS Journal articles. I'll try to do some more CASA DE TARANTULA husbandry-related blogs as topics come to me and cover BREEDING some more. The photography entries didn't seem to be too important to many readers so I don't know if I'll continue with those. Let's see if I can even make it to 100 posts ... 

Good night MJ


Does anyone remember the band "3"? Didn't think so ... How many fellow prog rockers are in my readership? I'm not sure if 3 would even qualify as prog since it was very poppy and, in retrospect, lame. I grew up on early 70s British progressive or art rock and early 70s to 80s metal. Today these influences combine in my preference for "prog metal" from Opeth to Katatonia to Between the Buried and Me to Dream Theater and all points between. But, back in the day (as we geezers say), I was all about bands like ELP, Yes, early Genesis (Gabriel-era, before Phil Collins ruined them) and such. In 1988 there was a short-lived project called 3. It was an attempt-to-ressurect spin-off of prog rock trio titans Emerson, Lake & Palmer. However, instead of Greg Lake on vocals, bass and guitar, keyboardist Keith Emerson and drummer Carl Palmer were joined by an American named Robert Berry. Their only album was titled the same as this blog entry, "... To the Power of Three".

Christians believe in something called "the trinity". Three or the power of three is a recurring theme in life. Instead of the holy father, son and the holy ghost others believe in mind, body and soul. I'm not much for believing, especially faith-based supernatural belief ignorance. In the words of Human League (another obscure musical reference for y'all): "I believe what the old man says though I know that there's no Lord above. I believe in me, I believe in you ... And you know I believe in love". Actually the jury is out on the latter ...

But maybe I believe in the "power of three". As I fade from arachnoculture and herpetoculture, there are only three projects that will keep my shadow in view. These are the British Tarantula Society, my Tarantula Bibliography and this blog. So, I thought I'd briefly comment on each and finally post a new blog entry after the longest quiet spell yet.

The British Tarantula Society

As most of you should know, I am the North American Coordinator of the BTS. I serve on the BTS committee in this role and try to attend both the Lectures and the Exhibition each year. My function as N.A. Coordinator is to liaise with other tarantula organizations in North America (primarily the ATS as long as it survives) and to promote membership throughout Mexico, Canada and the USA. I am happy to report more new American members and if you're not I hope you'll join. Moving forward with the BTS I am taking on a much greater role. It will soon be announced that I am taking over the reins of the BTS Journal. I will replace Peter Kirk as Editor of what is the premier English language arachnocultural publication in the world. I also am the primary copy editor and very likely will be responsible for the layout of the Journal. Guiding the Journal into the future is a great responsibility and will be my primary focus in the world of arachnoculture and arachnology. Everything else is secondary. The current issue of the Journal has two articles penned by me, and I also intend to publish more of my own material as I take over publication.

The Tarantula Bibliography

Hopefully you all have my species database and bibliographic reference bookmarked and consult it regularly. The Tarantula Bibliography (TTB) is in its TENTH YEAR! I created it to provide citations that were arachnoculture-oriented rather than arachnology-focused and to catalog the world's tarantula species in a user-friendly format that The World Spider Catalog (WSC) did not offer. The WSC now has a new home and editorial staff and is much better, but what I sought to provide was an attractive, modern MONTHLY UPDATED database to improve on the quarterly updated WSC of the past, plus provide bibliographic citations of both scientific (especially species descriptions) and hobby-related. I will continue to update TTB as often as possible and instantly add new species as they are described.

Kiss My Big Hairy Spider

The past couple of weeks have seen the fewest posts since I resurrected KMBHS back in early June. I have been working six day weeks and have been busy selling off most of my spider collection. I also expect that topics won't be as easy to come by as we rapidly approach 100 posts. But I am determined to keep it going, although admittedly it is listed third here for a reason. Of my "power of three" projects, the other two will certainly take precedence. 

So why not a fourth? What would it be? The only other thing that I have noticeably excluded is breeding. My collection is dwindling and I am sure most of you have noticed that I just added some "keepers" to my For Sale lists. I really am trying to get my involvement in the keeping of animals down to a minimum and, eventually, that minimum will number ZERO. Right now, I have only excluded my Harpactira, Monocentropus, Idiothele and Poecilotheria subfusca (both "forms") from sale. Additionally, I am raising up some sparassids: Heteropoda (davidbowie & lunula) and Barylestis scutatus and, this week when Frank Somma ships to me, I'll have Heteropoda boiei and H. javana, plus the ctenids Africactenus poecilus, Ctenus sp. "red fangs" and Ctenidae sp. "Nigerian gold-banded" as well. Whether these true spiders will "make the cut" is undecided. I'm very likely to sell the ctenids right away, keeping only a small group of the beautiful A. poecilus. I am not a fan of raising fruit flies and dealing with hundreds of tiny babies so I am going to guess the true spiders will all be listed before long (maybe even very soon) and my "spider room" will just be an office with a rack of African tarantulas and my favorite Pokie. The last thing I need is 300 baby "red fangs" to feed and, worse still, try to sell. Soon most will be gone. Then I can wander off into the sunset...

There is another musical 3 called 3G put on by two favorite guitarists, Joe Satriani and Steve Vai. And my "other three" are 3 "G's": guns, guitars and golf (disc, not old man style chase the little white ball). It's healthy to have hobbies and new challenges. Out with the old, in with the new.


Tuesday, September 15, 2015

#74 - FOR SALE


0.0.57 - Avicularia diversipes - 0.5” - BRED HERE - $30 ea., 3/$75
0.0.4 - Avicularia laeta - 1” - $35 ea., 4/$120
0.0.1 - Avicularia urticans - 1.5” - $45 ea.
0.0.11 - Chilobrachys sp. 'south Vietnam blue' - 0.5” - BRED BY C.C. - $20 ea.
0.0.2 - Cyriopagopus sp. hatihati - 2-2.5” - $50 ea. (REDUCED)
0.0.5 - Cyriopagopus sp. Sulawesi - 2-2.5” - $40 ea. (REDUCED)
0.0.7 - Cyriopagopus sp. Sumatra - 0.5” - BRED BY C.C. with my male - $35 ea.
0.0.75 - Iridopelma hirsutum 'Recife' - 0.5” - BRED HERE - $15 ea., 6/$80, 12/$120
0.0.5 - Lampropelma sp. Borneo - 0.5” - BRED HERE, more soon - $25 ea.
0.0.20 - Monocentropus balfouri - 3/4-1” - BRED HERE - $45 ea., 3/$120
0.0.4 - Poecilotheria metallica - 1.5” - $90 ea. (REDUCED)


0.2.0 - Avicularia diversipes - 3.5-4” young adult - $135 (REDUCED)
0.5.0 - Avicularia hirschii - adult - ENTIRE GROUP OF FIVE ONLY FOR $2900 SHIPPED!
0.3.0 - Cyriopagopus sp. Sulawesi - 3-4” - $100 ea. (REDUCED)
0.2.0 - Iridopelma hirsutum 'Recife' - adults - $80 ea. (REDUCED)
0.3.0 - Phormingochilus everetti - young adults - $220 ea.


2.0.0 - Poecilotheria tigrinawesseli - 3-4” - $40 ea. REDUCED


1.0.0 - Monocentropus balfouri - FRESH UM 8/2015 - $125 ea.
1.0.0 - Poecilotheria tigrinawesseli - FRESH UM 8/28/15 - $70 ea.


CONTACT ONLY BY EMAIL! spidershoppe@icloud.com
NO TRADES (except for Avicularia hirschii slings or males AND 1911 pistols or .357 mag revolvers!)


I missed my Sunday, Funday post two days ago. This is supposed to be the weekly random off-topic nonsense. I was busy at work and with some other things. I worked six days last week and am working six this week so today is my only day off. I have spider orders to pack and ship and I have a seat at my company's "Gold Table" at tonight's local NRA banquet starting at five so I am in a bit of a rush.

Still I can't start my morning without playing with spiders over a few cups of java. I just finally rehoused all of my Heteropoda davidbowie (thankfully without incident) and I cupped up the 2nd instar Avicularia diversipes I just hatched. There were 57 in total. Now I will feed them and try to do some more feeding before I start my packing so I can drop off the packages at FedEx on the way to the banquet.

Before starting to type this I posted a new Arachnoboards ad. I still have some clearance items and I've reduced almost all the prices and am still offering 10% off orders of $300+ exclusive of freight charge with free shipping for orders of $500+. There is a surprise on this list as I am offering my five adult female ULTRA RARE Avicularia hirschii AS A GROUP ONLY. I am also considering adding my Pachistopelma. I would love to be the first to breed A. hirschii and add that to my list of USA firsts in the past 12 months (including both species of Pachistopelma and Harpactira pulchripes), which now stands at six I think. However, I have no young to raise for males and my future with the colony looks bleak. I'd rather move them out to someone who might breed them and it would also help me buy the $4000 pistol I currently have my eye on.

Producing six US firsts probably won't even be recognized by the "popularity contests" such as this Reptile Report "Breeder of the Year" thing. Cracks me up how some of the people perennially nominated haven't bred a dad gum thing and others have bred species that everybody and their grandma has bred. Yay, for you and your Psalmopoeus irminia. But this is the way of the hobby ... the people who waste their hours among the Faffbookers and Arachnoboreds get popular and most hobbyists haven't a clue.

I also updated my website listing and corrected a glitch that someone made me aware of. Plus I sent out a wholesale list to try to move out the A. diversipes and I. hirsutum "Recife" I have on hand. I only wholesale to legitimate resellers (licensed businesses) or a few "weekend warriors" I respect and refuse to sell to the newbies, douchenozzles, and USPS illegal shippers.

I also started me day exchanging text messages with Mark Pennell and John Apple. Mark's October 4 arrival is only about 19 days away so time is flying. I still can't believe August has passed and now we're already half way through September. I am excited to have my best mate here again along with other close friends during my October 9 mini-ArachnoGathering at my home. Y'all are still welcome as long as you RSVP and ask for address. It's BYOB, but I'll be supplying the food. If you want to "stock the bar" with a bottle of booze I favor whiskey - Irish or American bourbon - vodka (especially Belvedere, Grey Goose and Ketel One). After my recent overconsumption of tequila - AFTER finishing the lion's share of a bottle of Jameson Black Barrell - I'd rather avoid that devil's spirit!

Mark's tattoo schedule is already fully booked. He wants to have more down time this trip. I will be going to work when he has his tattoos scheduled so that I don't desert On Target completely. I'm working my way up the ladder there and don't want to stay away for too long.

I'm starting to get my Costa Rica trip all planned and I'll be gone and away from the Internet for a glorious 10 days at the beginning of December. When I do have signal I will just be posting some images to my @exoticfauna Instagram account. I hope y'all are following me there and/or on Twitter using same name. As you know, I don't Faffbook any more.

I don't miss FB one bit. For a guy who checked it on his phone or iPad or laptop dozens of times throughout the day it was amazing how "cold turkey" I shunned it and never even thought about it again. I really was fed up with all the idiots and staying away from AB and FB is good for my mental health. I am very intolerant of ignorance and I admit it is a personal flaw. I'm not just intolerant, every little thing tends to annoy me. I'm so OCD and so into proper writing, spelling and grammar that it's like nails on the blackboard just reading some of the atrociously written posts. I've already commented on how much capitalizing species names drives me batty, and now I see another newbie dealer who does scientific names in all lower case, without properly capitalizing the genus. Who the fuck does he think he is? e.e. cummings? You don't get to make stylistic choices with scientific names. There is only one way to write them.

Talking about editing and copy editing leads me to an announcement. This is not public and I am only sharing it with you, my faithful KISS MY BIG HAIRY SPIDER audience. Please keep it among our friendly little group until it is formally announced. I am excited to inform you that I will be taking over as Editor-in-Chief of the BTS Journal. I have already been serving as primary copy editor. That is, I am the first to rewrite submitted articles to correct grammar and make them as concise and clear as possible. All articles need substantial reworking and those translated from another language take even more effort. However, now Peter Kirk is turning the reins over to me completely. As many of you know, I published seven issues of my own magazine, ARACHNOCULTURE, from 2005-2007. Now I will again be guiding a publication, only this time it will be the world's premier arachnocultural and arachnological publication. It is looking like I am taking on quite a project here as not only will I be the Editor-in-Chief, but it is likely that I will also take over the pre-press layout of the magazine in order to stay on top of publication schedule. The BTS Journal will be my primary focus in the arachnid hobby. Any other activities including breeding, lectures, and event hosting will be secondary. This makes it even more unlikely that there will be an ArachnoGathering #3. Sorry. If any of you want to volunteer to come on board with AG and contribute some hard work to making it happen please let me know. If I get several helpers - AND NARBC GIVES ME THE GO AHEAD - it may still happen.

This is another busy week and my blog entries may be limited. If anyone out there wants to do a "guest blog" now is the time to volunteer. m.a.jacobi@icloud.com.

cheers, MJ

Thursday, September 10, 2015


Doesn't matter how smart it is. Your phone is a phone. My iPhone 6 takes decent snapshots and even better video. I know some of the Android phones take even better pix. But they're still just phones. A compromise. Great for selfies or, in my case, snapshots of handguns for my @dailyhandgun Instagram account. Great for capturing your drunk buddies being asinine. But never great for photography.

Two nights ago I told Chad Campbell I was going to bug him to write an article on arachnid photography for the BTS Journal. In typical Chad fashion he replied, "Quit using your cell phone and practice, practice, practice. End." You gotta love the guy. He doesn't waste words.

Chad's a busy guy. He has the important work of ensuring that I don't violate the fascist micro rules of the Arachnoboreds, he's an admin on various social media cesspools and he's out there practicing, practicing, practicing. He isn't going to mince words. Quit using your cell phone.

You can't get good results from even the smartest PHONE and you can't get great results from a point and shoot. Save your pennies. Buy a DSLR. Start small. For 500 bucks you can get a Nikon D3300 with a 18-55 kit lens from bhphotovideo.com (my preferred photography source). This camera will even shoot 1080p HD video and is 24.2 megapixels. The lens will at least get you shooting. Re-read my aperture blog. After getting used to the camera in auto mode set that dial to "A" (aperture priority). When in doubt, always use f/8. If you're doing portraits use the largest aperture (smallest f/stop number) possible that allows for everyone to be in focus (e.g., f2.8, f/4 even f/5.6). When doing landscapes use f/8 or f/9 for most shots. And, again, when in doubt, use f/8. If you're trying to get more detail in focus (greater depth of field) for herp or arachnid shots try to use smaller apertures like f/9-f/16. Get comfortable with your camera and, in the words of the prophet Advan, practice, practice, practice. Search YouTube for a lesson on how to make your own diffuser for that crappy pop-up speed light on the camera body. In the meantime, save more pennies.

OK, so you've got used to your DSLR and you've been saving pennies. Sell some blood or sperm. Deliver a few pizzas. Sell off a few of your spiders. You've got too many. Now you need a real lens. You need a macro lens. You need a 1:1 macro lens. You need the Tokina 100mm f/2.8 AT-X M100 AF Pro D Macro Autofocus Lens for Nikon AF-D. It's a steal at $379 with free shipping. Now you've got a rig to capture quality images of arachnids and herps. But don't forget the practice, practice, practice. You can't buy quality images. You can spend thousands on photo gear, but you have to learn to use it. YouTube. So much free instruction to view. Then get out there and actuate that shutter. You're not paying for film. Click, click, click.

Oh, but now you need light. You need off camera speedlights with diffusers. My lighting Photography 101 blog is still to come. I will cover my use of a ring flash and a speedlight with a large softbox. I will cover the twin mini speed lights and diffusers on adjustable arms that Chad uses. There is no rush though. First you have to practice, practice, practice with your new DSLR. If you have a few extra pennies move up to the 5000 series and look at the 5300 or 5500. If you're flush look at the 7100 or 7200. These are the top of the line in cropped sensor camera bodies. If you are a high roller and go straight to full frame cameras than good for you. But without the practice, practice, practice you won't do better with a $3000 body than the hard-working, practicing, shooting all the time, researching and YouTube instructional video watching guy or gal with the 3300 I first mentioned.

Just don't use a phone. Text, tweet, snapchat and even dial with it, but don't try photographs. Save the camera for quick snapshots and video of hamsters playing the piano.


Wednesday, September 9, 2015


I received an email tonight inquiring about ArachnoGathering. I'm sure it is just one of many that I will receive, especially as March approaches, so I thought I'd address the topic here rather than answer and repeat myself in individual responses many times over the next months.

First, for anyone who isn't familiar with ArachnoGathering, it is an event that I have hosted in conjunction with the March NARBC show in Tinley Park, Illinois. Since my return to Chicagoland 2 1/2 years ago, I was a vendor at the show both in March and October beginning with the October 2013 show. I asked the show's owners/promoters if they would allow me to put on my own educational event for arachnid enthusiasts and they kindly gave me the facility and A/V equipment to do so. The inaugural event was March 2014 and it has been held twice, the second in March 2015. Each featured four lectures, raffles and an opportunity for arachnofreaks to interact. Whether there will be a 3rd annual in March 2016 is the question here ...

It's actually two questions from my perspective: 1. Do I want to do it now and will I want to do it then? 2. Will NARBC allow me to do it? I appreciate that those who attended may be hoping that it happens again in March 2016, but the truth is that I cannot answer whether it will at this time.

Let's look at the first question. Do I want to? Even if I might be inclined today would I still have the desire six months from now? I don't know. I have other arachnid related projects to keep me involved in the hobby. One is my role with the BTS, which is about to increase (that's all I can say now). Another is this blog and my other writings such as the articles I just published in the BTS Journal. I have outlets to keep me involved in arachnoculture without having to host an event. I've started a new career and my time is limited. I am not sure I'll want to expend the energy on ArachnoGathering #3 and I don't know that I'll want to take time away from work to spend the weekend in Tinley Park. That is my honest feeling today and in six months I have a feeling I will be even less motivated to host a hobby event.

As for the second question, NARBC was gracious enough to give me the facility to have ArachnoGathering at no cost. But then I was a vendor. Michael Jacobi's SPIDERSHOPPE is closed. I will maintain a small collection of tarantulas and true spiders (sparassids and some ctenids) for breeding, but my public and retail sales are mostly phased out. Once everything on my current clearance list is gone, I'm gone. Please help me expedite this ;) Just like my interest or desire in hosting another ArachnoGathering, I have a feeling that in six months I will be even less motivated to breed spiders. As I've written in past blogs, 33 years is a long time to do anything and I am done. Burned out. Over it. But back on point, my not vending at NARBC may make them unwilling to continue to support ArachnoGathering even if I was interested. I can tell you that I did send an email today to Russ Gurley, who is responsible for the NARBC lectures, asking if I could trade a public lecture at the weekend's reptile show for continued support of ArachnoGathering. I expect the answer would be yes. In the past when I did a public lecture during the weekend's show I was given a free booth worth about $400 so I think it would be an easy trade. But we return to the first question: Do I want to?

The answer is that I don't know. I have limited time off now and, to be quite honest, I'd rather ask for days off to go to the BTS Lectures again in February or the BTS Exhibition in May. I'm taking 10 days off (unpaid) to go to Costa Rica in December with my stepdad. These are occasions when asking for time off is worth it to me. Asking for time off to host ArachnoGathering doesn't have the same appeal. Tinley Park is an hour and a half from my house and I'd rather not make the trip without sales to pay for my time and expenses. Since I don't really have paid vacation or official time off, I am asking for a favor each time and I'd rather use it for things more important to me than ArachnoGathering. That's the brutally honest truth. Therefore, I'd have to say that the chance of AG #3 is 50/50 at best and, more likely is about 75% not going to happen. I loved putting on the first two and appreciate everyone who came out especially my guest lecturers. I thank NARBC and raffle donors and everyone who helped. But #1 and #2 happened when I was free, self-employed and focused on spiders. Now I am just a retired hobbyist who is more into other things. I will blog, I will write, I will photograph, I will travel. As I hinted at, I will have more work to do for the British Tarantula Society. These projects will all keep me involved and continuing to share my expertise and knowledge. AG probably won't make the cut.

Best regards, MJ

PS - It has just been brought to my attention that the NARBC schedule for October Tinley Park next month erroneously has retained the info about this past March's second ArachnoGathering giving the false impression that there is an event coming up. I just emailed NARBC owner Brian Potter informing him about the error. Sorry if this confused anyone.


Escapes can be a good thing - as long as they're temporary and you return to reality. Who doesn't like two hours of film that removes you from life for a short time? Who doesn't like the occasional night of somewhat irresponsible debauchery? How about a costume party or some kinky role-playing? The possibilities to be someone you're not are endless. We all need to escape some time.

For those of us who keep exotic terrarium pets, escapes of a whole different sort become commonplace. My decades of herpetoculture and arachnoculture have been filled with temporary, long-term and permanent escapees.

I've seen keepers refer to the blinding speed of spiders of the family Ctenidae. Yes, wandering spiders are fast, but they don't teleport like sparassids (huntsman spiders) do. They seem to time travel. Four days ago I was feeding my juvenile Heteropoda lunula. They had outgrown their 32 oz. deli cups so I decided to transfer them to gallon jars. I have a whole garage full now that I've sold off so many tarantulas. Now I usually do all my packing, unpacking, transferring and photographing of ctenids and sparassids in my shower stall. This IS the recommended procedure. But decades of experience doesn't make one immune to laziness or stupidity. I decided to do the transfer right on the work table in my spider room. I dropped the piece of cork tile the first H. lunula was resting upon into its new gallon jar home. I rapidly covered the opening of the jar with my flattened hand. I'm a big guy and have big paws. My hand completely covers the opening. I saw nothing move and I felt nothing touch my hand. But it didn't take me long to realize the jar was empty. I quickly searched the work table and surrounding area with a flashlight. Nothing. I searched for at least twenty minutes. Nothing. Not only can huntsman spiders teleport they can vanish too. Superpowers. I guess that's why I love them so much. I started to hope that the spider just had buried itself in the moss covering the substrate. My Barylestis scutatus often do this. I waited until after dark and checked the jar. Nothing. Days passed. Nothing. This morning I woke at 5 a.m. and decided to mist my spider terrariums before the timers switched on the lamps. As I sprayed the ExoTerra housing one of my Pachistopelma rufonigrum I saw a shadowy movement. My eyes had adjusted to the mostly dark early light of dawn and I saw the familiar shape of a crablike huntsman spider on the wall behind the shelves of terrariums. The H. lunula had been found. Of course, I had no capture cup at the ready. I found a deli cup that had held an ultimate male that was now in a female's cage and quickly dumped its contents in the trash while keeping the spider in my line of sight. Cooperatively, it actually moved up the wall and to the right where I would be able to reach it before it dashed behind the shelving units that line the entire wall. I didn't want it to do the spider trick of "drop and roll". I needed it to stay high up the wall or get on the ceiling. Thankfully I am tall and was easily able to reach up and trap it in the cup. Relief. Carefully I transferred it to the gallon jar. Capture. Success.

I recently hatched Poecilothera rufilata for the umpteenth time and have found a few of them around the house. Pokies are very cooperative - they tend to climb high and rest in their iconic stretched pose where the wall meets the ceiling. Spiderling escapes are common.

My best escape stories actually all involve snakes. I've had hundreds of loose snakes, geckos and spiders over the years, but some python stories are etched in my brain. When I was young and still living with my late mother I was very fortunate that she was the most supportive and understanding woman in the world. I had one ten foot python loose in our house for over six months! Seems hard to believe, doesn't it? It's not like it could hide in just any nook or cranny. My snake/spider room was in the basement and most of the finished basement had a suspended ceiling. You could see where she would move across the space between the ceiling tiles and actual ceiling because her weight would bend the aluminum ceiling tile grid. But she decided early on that she would live in the rafters above my snake room, which had a regular drywall ceiling instead of suspended ceiling tiles. I could stand on a ladder and see her between the rafters using a flashlight. She often would be coiled all the way at the end, twenty feet or so away from the nearest opening in the suspended ceiling. I tried baiting her with dead rats on string. I tried other ingenious tricks that failed. I tried making the world's longest telescopic snake hook, but she would just move her coils away and hiss. I began to consider the destruction of my snake room's ceiling, but I knew mom wouldn't be so supportive of that. At some point I thought she had found some other hiding place and perhaps had died. There were no sightings for an extended time. But there was also no stench of rotting snake corpse. One day I heard squealing. "Sittang", my Burmese python had found my youngest sister's pet guinea pig. The snake was finally found. But I would have to get to the pet store and buy a replacement pet for Erika.

Another time my mother was in the basement to do the laundry. She opened the washing machine and discovered an adult ball python inside. Like I wrote, I had a very special mother. I wasn't asked to move out or get rid of my snakes and spiders. She may not have been pleased and certainly was startled, but she fortunately was very accustomed to snakes.

Another time I was out of the house and my mother heard thrashing and crashing in the snake room, which I kept locked. Fortunately, I came home soon thereafter and we found that one of my Indian pythons had escaped and was trying to constrict my pet alligator. The snake was a good 40 or 50 pounds and the alligator about four feet long. I became the third member of the ménage à trois wrestling match. We all came out unscathed. This female Indian python also was later responsible for my worst ever python bite when she missed the ten pound rabbit I was chucking into her cage by hand (lesson learned) and snagged my forearm. Being a feeding action and not a defensive bite she of course coiled held and made me bleed. Teeth were left in the bite. Only now 25 years or so later are the scars gone (and tattoo covered).

My last python story for today involves the same Burmese python that was in the six months loose until finding guinea pig tale. "Sittang" was my first Burm and became huge. She was my pride and joy and I did many educational talks with her and many people had been photographed holding her, or at least a part of her immense body. One day my stepdad and mom and a few friends were all involved in holding her for a photo being taken in my mother's living room. Sittang became restless and began to glide through their arms. I was taking the photo and none of the holders clamped down on her. She got down to the carpet and then rose a bit and began pushing her head into the sofa cushions. Half of her length disappeared into the space upon which you sit. I had to take out my knife and cut away the fabric covering the bottom of the sofa to get her free.

I'll end this blog entry with the story of an escape that doesn't involve herp or arachnid. I've had a Dusky Pionus parrot for 25 years now. However, before Jesse I had a Senegal parrot named Lewis who sadly died after crashing into a window. That's a sad story, but this one predates that and has a happy ending. This is just before I moved out of the house. One day my mom put Lewis outside for some sun and fresh air while she mopped the area where her cage sat, but she didn't properly secure the cage door. Lewis was full-flighted (hence, the tragedy that took his life - keep flight feathers clipped!) and she flew the coop. Now I'm an old guy ... this is when cell phones first appeared and were thousands of dollars and the size of a cinder block. She had no way to reach me as I was out and about. Fortunately, she tracked me down at a friend's apartment by those old-fashioned landline phones and I rushed home. My stepdad had watched Lewis fly to neighboring trees and keep moving farther from home. He kept up with her and as I arrived on scene and rushed over Lewis flew over the big creek that separated our new subdivision from the older one on the other side. Panic ensued. I ran faster than I ever have. It was chaos. Finally Lewis was located in the other neighborhood, but he was high in a large and dense tree. I tried calling to him. He answered, but seemed disinclined to shorten his prison furlough. Believe it or not, Joel showed up in his car with two lawn chairs and a six pack of Corona. We were going to wait it out. Eventually Lewis flew to smaller trees in one backyard. This is where the story becomes even more amusing. Joel and I set up our lawn chairs and cracked a beer. The homeowner came out and found two strangers drinking in his driveway. I shit you not! We quickly explained, although he must have wondered what kind of drunks drink beer during emergencies. He actually asked us if he could come out on his own driveway to wash his car or something. Having Joel with me, who is the friendliest extrovert alive, helped with the whole trespassing with alcohol situation. Lewis called to me and I called back. He often would perch on a drapery rod or shower rod so he was used to flying to my shoulder and often would do it when called. All of a sudden he flew down to a young tree that was sparsely vegetated and not more than 10 feet high. I slowly walked toward the tree while calling and doing my little chirpy sounds. Lewis got excited and called back. I turned so that my shoulder was facing him and called again. Just like inside the house he flew from the sapling to my shoulder. I calmly pulled up my t-shirt and used it to wrap him up. Success. Another escape with a happy ending.

There were many that didn't have happy endings. I lost count of how many snakes escaped and were never seen again. Same thing with spiders. I wonder if any have been found by people who rented apartments after me or bought my first house or my mother's house. It's all part of the hobbies.

Until next time, MJ

Sunday, September 6, 2015


I write this from the break room at On Target Range and Tactical Training Center as I enjoy my morning Starbucks Americano before my shift begins. I'm usually off on Sundays and relax and work the spiders, but it's Labor Day weekend and we're having a sale. Tomorrow I'll get time and a half for laboring on Labor Day. I'd make more staying home selling spiders, but that career is in the rear view. 

Tonight we're having a family dinner at Wildfire restaurant. I've brought a change of clothes and gun, as I'll have to rush right there from work. They have a delicious bison steak that I can't wait to cheat on my diet for. A couple of Jameson's and gingers will complete what I expect will be a beautiful evening.

The weather has been hot this past week but it's supposed to cool midweek so I will get some more packages out the door. The spider numbers keep dwindling, but Frank Somma is sending me some more sparassids and ctenids this week to offset it a bit. 

I hope many of you are BTS members and have had a chance to read my two articles in the new Journal. If not, head over to the BTS e-store and at least get a digital membership. If you truly can't manage that expense I may make PDFs of just my two articles available to friends. 

Speaking of friends, a reminder that I'm extending an invitation to an ArachnoParty in my home on Friday, October 9. Mark Pennell will again be the guest of honor and with him, Chad Campbell, John Apple and, hopefully, Andy Daugherty, it will be a crazy time. 

I hope y'all have a safe and pleasant Labor Day weekend. Don't drink and drive, you might spill. Keep your sunny side up and your dirty side down. 

All the best, always, MJ

PS - Follow me on Twitter @exoticfauna for blog post announcements and more and follow me on Instagram at same name for spider pix with occasional off topic pic like tattoos and silliness. Gun lovers check out my @dailyhandgun Instagram, and for high res photos that you can even purchase see my official galleries at exoticfauna.smugmug.com


Saturday, September 5, 2015


Let's return to Suriname ...

As I've written, our field trip to this former Dutch colony on the northeast coast of South America was due to Maria Sibylla Merian's pioneering journey there in 1699. She was fascinated by insects, especially the then unknown metamorphosis of butterflies. An accomplished illustrator, Madame Merian left us with the first depiction of a "bird-eating" tarantula and this led to Linnaeus' Avicularia avicularia.

In Blog #49 back in late July I told her tale and of our journey to a restored plantation where we found the first of many Avics of our Suriname adventure. This plantation was on the north side of the Commewijne River east of Paramaribo, the capitol of Suriname and port on its northern coast. Although our day on the plantation yielded a large number of Avicularia, we still had a desire to find one within Paramaribo's "city limits". Over half of Suriname's population lives in "Parbo", and we knew for sure that Merian would have started where her ship had landed.

Prior to our field trip a Dutch team that had visited Suriname some years earlier had corresponded with Andrew Smith. They told of finding Avicularia in the forest near Parbo's zoo. So one day during our first week before we headed south to Babunhol and Brownsberg we decided to visit what would prove to be a very dismal little zoo.

The zoo itself is on the northwest side of the city and as we pulled up to its parking lot we noticed it was surrounded by a beautiful forest. We presumed this is the place the Dutch men had suggested. We decided that exploring the trees in this area would be better than a trip into the zoo and disappeared into the foliage.

As we searched the forest I discovered my first Plica lizards. These well camouflaged saurians cling to the trunks of trees and, much like our American Sceloporus, will tend to circle away from you and ascend at the same time when they know they are spotted. But many proved to be great models and would freeze still for my photo shoot, confident in their splendid camouflage. As I searched the trees for arboreal spiders I also came across turnip-tailed geckos (Thecadactylus rapicauda).

The rainforest beside the zoo where we explored.  © Michael Jacobi
Plica umbra in Paramaribo, Suriname  © Michael Jacobi
You can see how perfectly the turnip-tailed gecko (Thecadactylus rapicauda) also blended in with the rainforest trees.

My mate Paul Carpenter is highly skilled at shining his "torch" (flashlight) in the right place. He's hunted spiders around the world so this wasn't his first rodeo. It was he who discovered our first theraphosid spider, but to our surprise it wasn't Avicularia. And, SPOILER ALERT, we would find zero Avicularia in the woods surrounding the zoo. As Paul's light rays penetrated a natural hole at the end of a small limb he discovered our first Tapinauchenius plumpipes.
Out of this hollow tree limb came our first Tap.
The team at the small tree where Paul found our first Tapinauchenius. The hole was at the "L" bend right above Andrew Smith's left shoulder. (l. to r. Guy Tansley, Andrew Smith, Michael Jacobi & Paul Carpenter). Photo © Michael Jacobi

Tapinauchenius plumipes near Paramaribo Zoo. © Michael Jacobi
Another Tapinauchenius plumipes  © Michael Jacobi
The Taps shared their trees with these colorful arboreal millipedes  © Michael Jacobi

We discovered that this forest bordered some gardens where locals where growing various vegetables. We began to encounter more people, but we also discovered more Tapinauchenius plumipes. We were in the most populous area of the country, but there was no shortage of tarantulas. Eventually we made our way back to our hired car where another lunch of sardines, crackers and chips awaited. Refreshed and fed we decided we might as well give the zoo a quick look. I won't bother with the details of how depressing this little zoo was. Seeing big African and Asian cats in crappy little pens ruins my day. I hated being at this zoo and, quite frankly, I hate even America's state of the art zoos. I did not want to be there at all. But the paved trails through the little zoo had loads of big shade trees and we found that every one was inhabited by Avicularia! We had found our "city limits Avics".

An Avicularia retreat in a tree inside the Paramaribo Zoo  © Michael Jacobi
We found many Avicularia in silken tubes among the zoo's trees.
Guy Tansley poses with the subadult Avic from the previous photo. The other zoo visitors were looking at shoddy exhibits while we were only interested in the zoo's free ranging creatures like the Avicularia and the Ameiva lizards.
The "jungle runners" (Ameiva ameiva) that scurried about the zoo grounds.  © Michael Jacobi

Avicularia "Paramaribo Zoo" ;)

We hadn't travelled but 15 minutes from our suburban resort and had found two species of Aviculariinae and some nice lizards. It was just another highly successful day for our team and I'm sure we rewarded ourselves with a fine dinner and some cocktails. We had discovered a nice little restaurant in downtown Parbo and dined after dark before returning to Oxygen resort to write in our journals with a cold beer and, in the case of Andy and I, a fine cigar.

Until next time, MJ

Friday, September 4, 2015


As I wrote, I welcome guest submissions to KISS MY BIG HAIRY SPIDER and it seemed appropriate to begin with Chad "Advan" Campbell who is well-known in our arachnocultural circles as a superb photographer. He contributed some stunning images to my Pachistopelma article that is in the current British Tarantula Society Journal 30(2) and you can view more of his work on his Flickr photo stream or his Arachnoboards photo thread. The following is Chad's guest blog commenting further on the aperture and white balance blogs I posted as well as macro photography in general. I'll interject one lone footnoted "editor's note" at the end, but the rest of the below is authored by Chad.


Photography Comments by Chad

I'm in the middle of feeding spiders - trying to get spider chores done before the long weekend. I have a few things to quickly add to Jacobi's great posts on photography.

Aperture size: I do normally use f/18 for anything 1:1 or high magnification. I have tried f/22 but notice too much diffraction at that point and usually trash those images. As I get further away from the subject to get a specimen shot (this is all relative to the size of the subject), I normally shoot at an aperture between f/8 and f/14. Be aware that depending on the size of your subject and where it is, sometimes a 100 mm lens is a tad too long for "specimen" shots (portraits). I normally shoot on my bed (with a moat system to contain the spider) so if I'm shooting an adult female pushing 6" or larger, I'm on my tippy toes trying to not cut off the spiders toes in the shots.

Lens for macro: I do recommend the Tokina 100mm as a great dedicated macro lens at a great price. Even though you want to be shooting manual focus during all macro work, the autofocus is not that great if you chose to use for portraits, like many people do (the AF is slow and screwdrive so if you have one of the entry level DSLRs they tend not to have the screwdrive AF controls that higher end models will).

Saving your pennies for a macro lens? Why not first buy a $10 reverse ring and reverse your kit lens (see the image at end). I did this for a while and, while it is a big pain in the ass, it is great for learning the ins and outs of macrophotography (lighting, focus, depth of field, etc.). If you have, say, a 50mm prime lens, you can reverse that, buy extension tubes (to allow for closer focusing) or buy a Raynox magnifier and clip it on to the front.

Lighting: This could be a whole article itself. I'll just touch on a few things that need to be noted. Use diffusers! You can buy soft boxes or make your own with foam, paper or even yogurt containers! Diffusers bring out the detail in flash photography and help eliminate hot spots. Never overexpose! You will never get that information (detail) back! It is always better to underexpose when you are shooting and then bring your exposure up in post-processing. You won't lose the detail as you would if you tried to dial back your exposure in post.

White balance (WB): There is a standard and then there is personal preference. All cameras are different, but it is better to get your WB right in camera so you don't have to mess with it in post*. We are taking flash photography here (notice in MJ's chart how close flash temp is to the sun?). I have found on my camera, the "direct sunlight" setting is my preferable WB. I sat and shot at a piece of corkbark with all the auto saved WB settings and that was the closest looking WB to what my eyes were seeing. *** This is my eyes and my specific camera! Your mileage may vary ***

That's all for now. I'll write some more at some point when I have time. Cheers! - Chad

Chad took this image of a Psalmopoeus reduncus spiderling with an entry level Nikon D3100 with the 18-55mm kit lens reversed. This is done with an inexpensive adapter that allows you to put the lens on backwards.

*MJ: Since Chad and I use basically the same rig I will try using the "direct sunlight" setting as he suggested in his cork bark example. However, you may have noticed that we differ in our approach to WB. As I wrote in my last blog, I prefer to use neutral WB in RAW and adjust WB "in post" (I use the very powerful Lightroom, which Chad doesn't). This can be a problem if I am also saving each image to my second memory card as JPEG for quick use since the WB would be poor without post-processing, but I rarely do that. However, I do set a specific WB when I am doing photography other than my mainstay spider portraits. I tend to stay away from the presets like "direct sunlight" or "fluorescent" and actually dial in the color temperature by using WB cards (white or grey) made for that purpose or taking test shots and adjusting for the room or outdoor lighting. But I still like to be able to tweak after the fact as I don't like either overly cool or overly warm images. The finished H. pulchripes portrait in my white balance blog shows the crisp and slightly cool background bark color that I want to see. Finally, as Chad wrote, lighting could be a whole article in itself and it will be the topic of my next installment of Photography 101. However, first I want to return to some TALES FROM THE FIELD, CASA DE TARANTULA and other subjects. Enjoy your Labor Day weekend!

Thursday, September 3, 2015


If you've ever watched a wedding photographer prepare for his or her shoot you may have noticed he or she taking pictures of white or neutral colored cards. What (s)he is doing is adjusting white balance so that white is white despite whatever "color" the available light is. Simply put, white balance (WB) is the process of removing unrealistic color casts, so that objects that appear white in person are rendered white in your image. (S)he wants that white wedding dress very white and all the other colors to be accurate. We talk about light and light spectrum in terms of color temperature, which refers to the relative warmth or coolness of white light.

I mentioned shooting in "RAW" in the last blog and it is still too early to discuss this topic. However, basically it means that instead of recording my image in a format like JPEG that will display as a photograph, I am only recording data and use post-processing software to adjust settings after capture instead of before. This RAW data file is not a photo and has to be converted to a viewable image in a format such as JPEG (compressed) or TIFF (uncompressed). So, instead of the camera processing the captured light into a photo, when shooting in RAW you are recording the captured light as data with minimal processing so that you have complete control after the fact. That's all I'll say for now.

But as it relates to WB, I have my camera set to neutral so I can set the white balance after capturing an image and not either tell the camera what setting to use before shooting or use the AUTO WB mode to let the camera decide itself. I am very particular about white balance. I find that the AUTO WB setting makes the images too WARM (yellow-shifted) for both my taste and as an accurate representation of what I saw in natural light, and that Lightroom will make the images too COOL (blue-shifted) if I select its auto color balance function. Again, WARM shifts the color towards yellow, whereas COOL shifts the color towards blue. I err slightly to the cool side, but want a realistic color and usually I adjust the color balance based on the background rather than the spider to try to achieve a more natural color cast.

Color temperature is measured in degrees Kelvin. Remember this odd measurement from chemistry class? Don't worry you don't need to learn it now or recall chemistry or physics. All you need to know for now is that we care about color temperature due to the lighting of our subject. If you are shooting under fluorescent lights your images will be affected, often negatively. If you are shooting under natural light or tungsten lights or whatever ... it affects your color balance. So does natural daylight or sunlight. Your camera's AUTO WB will do its best, but by shooting in RAW and neutral WB I strive to make it perfect in post-processing. The image below shows the color balance of various light sources. I am using electronic flashes almost 100% of the time and my most frequent adjustment is to about 4800-5200K. However, you will see how wide the range of available light in a room or outdoors can be. Confusing? Have you ever bought fluorescent tubes at Home Depot? They have the color temperature such as 4000K printed on their boxes. You will find some that may be 5600K as this more closely approximates natural light. Many people gravitate to those and they make for a healthier office environment than the typical "BLUE" cast of generic bulbs.

Remember yesterday's aperture examples with the Harpactira pulchripes. As I wrote, I just used my camera's JPEG setting to capture image files as processed by the camera. WB was set to AUTO. The resulting images were a bit washed out and too warm for my liking and did not accurately represent either the spider's color or the color of the cork bark background. Because the spider is golden yellow the images definitely had too much of a yellow cast and the blue-grey legs showed up as just grey. Now I've taken the same image captured in RAW and processed it in Lightroom. The color balance was set to 4524K, a bit lower than I usually go but it most accurately represents the colors I saw. Additionally, I added a slight increase in both clarity and vibrance and used a preset I have made to adjust the highlights and shadows. Additionally, I cropped the image for better composition. Instead of the spider being smack dab in the middle it more closely follows the "rule of thirds" and has space in front of it to suggest its movement. This is the type of tarantula portrait that I post publicly. Again, this shot was at f/18, 1/60 sec, and ISO 100. It was recorded as a RAW (data only with minimal camera processing) file and then "developed" in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC as detailed above.

Harpactira pulchripes, subadult female  © Michael Jacobi, exoticfauna.com

Compare the above beautiful portrait of a spectacular spider shot in RAW and cropped and post-processed with white balance, exposure, clarity, shadows and highlights adjusted, etc. to the exact same shot recorded as a JPEG with its unnatural yellowish cast and washed out overexposed look.

Exact same photo as above shot as a JPEG with auto white balance that rendered unnatural color.

In closing, Chad "advan" Campbell is well-known for his spectacular photography. He texted me this morning to tell me that he has some info he'd like to add to my first Photography 101 post about aperture. He was going to post as a comment, but I want everyone to see it so I asked that he send it via email so I can post it as a blog entry.

This brings up something that I have meaning to mention ... KISS MY BIG HAIRY SPIDER is turning out to be almost a magazine with single articles several days a week. I welcome submissions and may print your writings as a "guest blogger". Just email me at spidershoppe@icloud.com if you are interested in contributing.

Thanks for reading my words, MJ

Wednesday, September 2, 2015


I mentioned previously that I wanted to include another ongoing series that would focus (pun alert) on the basics of photography and how they apply to capturing images of arachnids. I want to try to do so in terms anyone can understand. Those who want technical information on photographic techniques will find them. There are plenty of good books and internet resources. My intention is to explain the core concepts I believe are necessary for successful arachnid and other small animal images, without delving into complicated physics and overly detailed discussion that will make you want to just stick to your smartphone. My series will assume that you have a DSLR (or even an old school film SLR); it won't be applicable to camera phones and point-and-shoots and I'll explain why in this first installment. If you're a technophobe don't skip this. Give me a chance to distill some photo info into laymen's terms or at least explain the concepts in concise, easy to understand language first. This lesson will not be short, but hopefully it will be easy to understand, especially if you ensure that you understand each paragraph completely before moving on and, if you're not sure, you read the paragraph again.

We are talking about macrophotography, which is basically taking pictures of small objects at short distances. I'm not going to get into the magnified "super macrophotography" of teeny tiny insects or spiders. I'm not going to be talking about focus stacking or other tricks. We're just going to be talking about photographing tarantulas (or scorpions, etc.) and using basic macro techniques to maximize things like depth of field, which is what APERTURE is all about. And aperture is this first installment's subject matter.

SLR stands for single lens reflex and, of course, DSLR stands for DIGITAL single lens reflex. Simply put, a single lens reflex camera uses a mirror and prism system so that you are looking directly at your subject THROUGH THE LENS. This is different than the point-and-shoot camera where you are looking through a viewfinder and seeing the subject slightly differently than will be captured by the film or digital sensor. When you use a smartphone you see what the lens is capturing on a screen and this is what is called "live view" on point-and-shoots or DSLRs (different manufacturer's have different names. I'm a Nikon guy so some of my terminology will be theirs. As we get further into this topic I will give the Canon equivalents, but for other maker's you'll have to look up the slight nomenclatural differences).

The simplest definition of APERTURE is that it is a hole through which light travels. Aperture can be a very technical subject if you get into things like cone angles and bundled rays and how collimated they are. But we don't give a flock about those. We're keeping it simple so all I want you to know is that your camera's aperture is related to how much light you are allowing to pass through the lens to the sensor. (I'm going to refer to sensor as I am assuming almost all of you are using DSLRs).

Aperture is measured by what are called f-stops. For example, f/2.8 and f/18. I'm going to use these two extremes to explain further. One thing that is hard for people to grasp is that the smaller the aperture the larger the number. Let's state that again. f/18 is a much smaller aperture than f/2.8. We'll skip the technical explanation. Just remember that each stop decreases the amount of light as you move from smaller number to larger number and that this increases the DEPTH OF FIELD.

Now depth of field is what aperture is all about. The smaller the aperture, the less light reaches the sensor and the greater the depth of field is. That means that more of the subject from the front to the back of the image is in focus. We don't need to burden ourselves with the physics involved. Just trust me.

Getting back to our f/2.8 and f/18 ... Large apertures like f/2.8 or even larger ones like f/1.4 or f/1.8 are highly popular with portrait photographers. They put a person's face in perfect focus while blurring the background in a pleasant way that is referred to as BOKEH. If you are photographing a group of people (e.g., a foursome) that aren't on a single plane (exact same distance from lens) you may have to go to, say, f/4 or f/5.6 to slightly increase the depth of field so all the people are in focus. When you buy a lens it is normally rated with its largest aperture (smallest number) as the largest aperture achievable by the lens is related to its quality and price. This is for lenses with FIXED FOCAL LENGTHS. This means that a 35mm lens only shoots at 35 mm. I have a Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 (a steal at $200 and great for portraiture). It can shoot at smaller apertures than the largest (f/1.8), but it cannot shoot at focal lengths longer than 35 mm. Then you have your zoom/telephoto lenses. These can adjust from a minimum focal length to a maximum focal length. For example, I have a Nikkor 18-200 mm f/3.5-f/5.6. This means that it's largest aperture is f/3.5 and that would be at shortest focal length (18 mm), but if I zoom out to 200 mm than my largest aperture becomes f/5.6. Very expensive zoom/telephoto lenses will have a single maximum aperture (f/stop) throughout its entire focal length range. Some of these cost as much as a good compact car. OK, let's get back to DEPTH OF FIELD.

The shortcomings of point-and-shoot cameras is that even if you put them in their macro mode (generally represented by a cute little flower icon) the smallest aperture is typically only f/8 (or greater) and that IS NOT sufficient for quality portraits of arachnids. I've joked in previous blog entries how I carry 30 pounds of camera gear while Guy walks up with his fancy point-and-shoot and quickly captures his images. His results are good, but they don't compare to mine. The benefit of his point-and-shoot was it's great zoom ability, which would be a $10,000 lens for me. However, those long range shots are lacking in detail and full of what we call NOISE. A point-and-shoot is no substitute for a DSLR. The point-and-shoot camera automatically raises the ISO to make the sensor more light sensitive and capture more light (that's a topic for another day) resulting in poor results due to what is called LUMINANCE NOISE. It is a small package of compromises that doesn't duplicate the performance of a DSLR.

So if f/8 is not good for macrophotography, what is? I can tell you that the majority of my macro shots are taken at f/18 using a Nikon 7100, which is a camera body among the highest end of their cropped sensor DSLR range. I can tell you that my bud Chad Campbell, a more accomplished photographer than I, also shoots most of his "macro" shots at f/18 using the same Nikon 7100. f/16 can be used for larger subjects and you may go as small as f/22, so we will focus on a range of f/16 to f/22 noting that f/16 and f/18 are more useful than f/22 for most photographers and most shots and that Chad and I both agree that f/18 is the "sweet spot" for our D7100s paired with the Tokina 100mm  macro lens we both use.

So we are using small holes. That is, small apertures with larger f-stop numbers. That means we need good lighting as we are limiting what makes it to the sensor. I won't squeeze a discussion of lighting into this APERTURE article. Simply put, you need to get good light, with good diffusers OFF OR ABOVE the body of your camera. Built in speed lights will only give satisfactory results; they won't excel.

By using these small apertures we are maximizing DEPTH OF FIELD. We want as much of our small subject in focus as possible. My example of portrait photography was the exact opposite. We want our model's face in perfect clear focus, but we want the background to have that pleasant blurred bokeh. As a rule of thumb, most landscape images are taken at f/8 or f/9 and you focus on part of the landscape approximately one third of the distance between you and the background. This gives pleasing results. In fact, there is a photographic adage that when in doubt shoot everything at f/8. If you want the far background of a landscape to be detailed than you use a smaller aperture like we would for macrophotography. That is f/16 or smaller. Depth of field will make more sense when I show you a series of example photos using the exact same subject at the exact same distance at the end of this article.

So, by now you may be wondering about HOW TO CHANGE f/STOP. First thing you have to do is get your camera out of its AUTO MODE. This mode is a compromise that gives reasonable results for NOVICES but you are now going to be changing aperture and you have graduated to INTERMEDIATE. AUTO does all things OK, but nothing WELL. We want to tell the camera what to do now. We are edu-muh-cated. We are smarter than some Japanese machine. If you are a Nikon user rotate that dial to A (aperture). If you're a Canon user they make it a bit more complicated and call it "Av" (aperture value). You are now in APERTURE PRIORITY mode. Don't be scared, we're still going to trust the camera to do some things for us. We aren't going completely MANUAL. At least not yet. I will tell you that I do 90% of my shooting in aperture priority (again, that means my MODE DIAL is set to A). What this does is tell my camera, "Hey, bud, I am going to choose my own damn aperture and all I want you to do is choose what you think is the best shutter speed". Now if you have your ISO set to AUTO your camera buddy will also choose the ISO for you. However, I don't have my ISO set to AUTO. I want it as low as the light will allow and that is ISO 100 so I set that manually (again, this is beyond today's discussion). I use good lighting so I don't need extra light sensitivity from my camera's sensor. (ISO is similar/equivalent to what was ASA for film ... you old-timers will remember buying ASA 100 or 400 or 800, etc.). Now that we are in APERTURE PRIORITY MODE we can select f/16 or f/18 and then let the camera do everything else. Let's not go cowboy and go all MANUAL yet... You can set aperture several ways and I'll let you Canon (and other) people consult your own manuals. But for you wise Nikon users you usually rotate the command dial left for larger apertures (lower f-numbers) and right for smaller apertures (higher f-numbers). You should see these numbers display on your small LCD screen or on the large rear display if you are in INFO mode.

You now know a lot more about taking proper macro shots than most people do. I can tell you that I travel the world with a couple guys who buy macro lenses and then just leave their cameras in AUTO MODE. What a waste of money ... just buy a point and shoot and put in in "flower mode". You'd have better results at a fraction of the cost. If you do not understand APERTURE and DEPTH OF FIELD, and all of you should now, you are not taking good macro images.

That brings us to one last topic before I show you some example images and end today's lesson. Macro lenses. As I said, getting into lighting would be a topic of its own, but all of the above rambling assumes you have a MACRO LENS. The best value in macro lenses is the one Chad, I and other friends all use: The Tokina f/2.8 100 mm 1:1 macro that goes for around $400. You need to have a 60-100 mm lens made for macro (Nikon tends to call them micro). The 1:1 in our Tokina's name is ideal if you can afford it. It means that we can get "life size images". In other words, we are capturing actual size. A 1:2 lens captures images at "half life size". The Tokina we use has a minimum focus distance (how close we can get) of just under one foot and a maximum aperture of f/2.8 (again, that is in the lens name) with a minimum aperture of f/32. Without a macro lens your ability to capture quality images of small subjects is limited or impossible. Practice with what you have, but save the money for the Tokina I mentioned. It is by far the best lens at the best price.

So now let's look at the same spider photographed the same way at different apertures (f/stops). For the record, I am using my Nikon D7100 handheld at the same approximate distance with the camera set manually to ISO100 and in APERTURE PRIORITY MODE. The lens is the Tokina 100mm macro. The camera's computer will decide my shutter speed for these shots and I will include it in the photo description. For lighting I will be using a Nikon SB-900 mounted to the hot shoe with a Pocket Box 6" x 9" softbox diffuser. Everything else will stay the same from image to image except for aperture (f-stop). I'm sure the spider will move a bit (she did!) so it will not be posed exactly the same, but the distance between lens and subject will stay approximately the same. I will shoot at f/5.6, f/8, f/10, f/13, f/16, f/18 and f/20. A larger aperture like f/4 or f/2.8 would be crap, which the f/5.6 is, but only worse. I didn't bother going above f/20 as hopefully you can see that f/18 is superior to all the others. Unfortunately, the f/16 example is poorly focused and I don't have time to reshoot. Because I am using good lighting all the shots will have a shutter speed of 1/60 sec. Again, I am letting the camera set the shutter speed, but it did not change throughout the series of images. We'll cover shutter speed and how it relates to hand holding or tripod in a future lesson.

The subject is a juvenile female Harpactira pulchripes approximately 2.5" in diagonal legspan. Although I normally shoot only in RAW (another lesson, another day), I will be using completely unprocessed JPEG images for the photo examples at the end.

These images should reveal how important aperture is to macrophotography and why a point-and-shoot (or DSLR IN AUTO!!!!) cannot yield the same results. As I wrote, I use A (Aperture Priority, Av on Canon) for 90% of my photography. For spiders and snakes and such I am usually at f/16 to f/18. For landscapes I am typically at f/8 or f/9, but may go to f/16 or smaller if the scenery in the distance is the important subject. For portraits I use the largest aperture possible (smallest f-stop number). f/2.8 is very good, but f/1.4 or f/1.8 can produce the best bokeh.

In closing, I will remind you that a complete rundown on my camera rig is in Blog #12A. And remember, the greatest thing about digital photography is you can take as many images as you like for free. Practice. Experiment. Get this aperture thing down and then start thinking about composition and lighting. Macrophotography is fun and there are plenty of subjects both in your spider room and outside in your bushes. Capture images of the latter before winter comes. Happy shooting, MJ

100mm, f/5.6, 1/60 sec, ISO 100
100mm, f/8, 1/60 sec, ISO 100
100mm, f/10, 1/60 sec, ISO 100

100mm, f/13, 1/60 sec, ISO 100

100mm, f/18, 1/60 sec, ISO 100

100mm, f/20, 1/60 sec, ISO 100

The f/18 image puts the entire spider in focus with exceptional detail and no noise. Look carefully at the spider and the background in all of the images.

Hope you learned something new, MJ