OK, even when I was shooting with the Crown Graphic, I envied the pro sports shooters with the motor drive to advance the film and someone elses money to pay for the developing.
Now, every point and shoot will take sequences at some number of “frames per second” or fps. My D90 will shoot at 4.5fps, the D300 at 6fps and the V1 at 10fps. That sounds like it makes it easier and in many ways it does. But, you still need to think about what you are shooting as action and how to approach it. Just like the old film cameras that would run out of film and need reloading, the modern camera will have buffer size limitations that will stop your action in it’s tracks.
To start with, you need to decide if the action you are shooting is continuous or a particular instant that you want to capture. Continuous action is very amenable to using the ‘motor drive’ to continue shooting until the buffer is full. It is characterized by sudden change that cannot be anticipated. The desire for a specific instant though means that you might as well be shooting old school and consider the fps as just a way to make it a little easier.
In either case, you are going to get better shots if you understand the rhythm of what you are shooting and what cues you can use to start shooting. Here are a couple of shots taken from a post about a rodeo in arcadia a couple years ago.
The bullrider was an example where the action was continuous and unpredictable. I was just blasting away with the D300 and 70-300mm VR lens to get as many pictures as possible. The zoom allowed me to get to the point where the action pretty much filled the frame and the Automatic Focus followed well. Even then, I was using short bursts which were keyed by the sound of the bull hitting the ground. My reaction time was such that if I shot three frames at the sound, I got the bull going up, at the peak and going down. I almost never got one looking like a static shot with all four feet on the ground.
The second shot is an example of one where I wanted a particular instant. Between the rides, the ring crew had to get the animals out for the next rider. I watched this as a spectator a few times, took a couple of shots and then saw the image I wanted to capture. When they do this, the inside rider gets his lariat on the animal but, doesn’t actually try to control it. You don’t really want to be pulling an angry beast that weighs more than you and your horse toward you. Once that line is on, the outside rider ropes the animal and with two lines, they can safely control it. To get the single instant shot you need to have a cue. To find that, you need to watch the action for a while without shooting while visualizing the instant you want to catch. In this case, it was the arm movement of the second cowboy as he threw his lariat. This happens quickly. If you tried to get it blasting away, it would be a matter of luck to get the shot you want. After all, that cue only lasts an instant. If you start to soon, the camera buffer is full before you catch it. Start too late and the loop is already on the bull. In this case, I was shooting a single frame each time his arm came forward. I finally got the shot I wanted and as it happens the lighting and position of the bull were near perfect (to my mind). I even got lucky with the bull being airborne emphasizing it’s speed and power.