Fri 18-Jan-13 06:10 AM | edited Fri 18-Jan-13 07:13 AM by km6xz
I used to shoot cutters, my own, in events with a A1 Canon without motor drive, and used manual focus. I had 3 campaigned cutters, two out of Doc Bar and the other from Tough T. Most of the great shots seen in the publications were Manual Focus 20-25 years ago when I was doing it. Compared to close in sports with speed, Cutting and reining competition is very predictable, you know better than the calf what a particular horse will do most of the time, they are not highly erratic motions, but each has its bag of tricks. Luckily shooting from a distance, cutters stay on a relatively constant focal plane while actually working the solo calf cut out of the herd. That is what, with f/8 or higher and manual focus it worked from 40 feet and more. You biggest problem is light indoors to get the 1/500-1/2000 shutter needed. If they allow strobes, that helps you. Another reason manual focus was used(besides there being no reliable AF at the time) is the poor contrast and detail to focus on. If focusing on the horse, in dim light, a smooth mass of coat which is often a uniform dark color is a very poor subject. I used the hat, usually light but made sure DOF was sufficient to get the horses head and tail in focus. So you will need a fast prime for focusing in dim light since the camera focuses using the widest aperture and then stops down to take the shot. A 85 1.4 stopped down to f/8 or 11 would be good if you are relatively close. I liked longer lenses however for this for the compression effect. Wide angle has the opposite effect and makes the head dominate in proportion and the calf more so is shot from a front quarterly position. Some people like that in that is suggests the calf is much larger than it is. Both the D700 and D600 are pretty good in AF in low light but the D600 is rated at -1 ev which is only bettered by the D800 and D4.
If frame rate is really important to you, consider 4k video, each frame has enough res to pull a frame for publication but low light will be more of a problem. Even 10 frames per second still needs to be triggered at the right time, for peak action. Starting frames before peak action, relies too much on luck that one of the frames will be both in focus and what you would have gotten if you had been deliberate in choosing a moment. Stan St Petersburg Russia