New Jersey is the most challenging of all the State Capitols for photography--primarily due to limited access. It's the only capitol building in the nation where a visitor isn't permitted to enter unless part of a guided tour. I've visited all 48 state capitols in the continental United States, and the only other capitol with any kind of photography restriction is North Carolina, where tripods aren't allowed.
I arrived at the New Jersey State House in Trenton early in the morning. After shooting some images outside of the building, I entered the State House. Security would not allow me to proceed past the initial holding area until 10:00 am, which was the time of the first guided tour. So, I sat there for nearly 30 minutes waiting for my guide to arrive.
I could hardly believe my luck. I was the only person on the tour as I walked with the tour guide into the rotunda area. Then, the guide told me that I would be joining a large group of about 25 people for the tour. She apologized for the group being late and said that she was expecting them at any minute. At this point, I was positioned inside the rotunda--so I began shooting. My plan was to capture as many pictures as possible before the crowd arrived. While I had the rotunda mostly to myself, I quickly lined up images of the inner dome and the stained glass windows. Fortunately, it was a late arriving crowd. I had nearly 15 minutes of shooting time before they started filing into the rotunda.
At that point, the tour began. It was nearly impossible to create any images with such a large crowd gathered in a relatively small space. Eventually, we made our way into the chambers--first the General Assembly and then the Senate chamber. While the guide was presenting information about each chamber, she positioned herself directly in front of my lens, making it impossible to capture any images at all. In the meantime, I carefully positioned the camera on the tripod and tested the camera settings. Within seconds of the guide moving out of my way, I activated the shutter. In general, I had no more than 30 seconds because the reason for the guide's movement was to go to the next room. My pictures usually involved seven bracketed exposures with each exposure averaging about 5 seconds. The guide was usually asked me to keep up with the group as the last frame was being exposed--so not much room for error!
On a side note, some of the questions from the crowd were quite alarming. One woman asked if New Jersey had a State House like the one we were touring for each congressional district. There are only 12 districts in New Jersey--but that would still be a significant expense to maintain that many State Capitol buildings in just one state!
Click here to view 13 of my favorite images from the visit. Keep in mind that I only had time to shoot about 17 pictures in total!