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You should always use a try catch statement when calling tf methods. If you catch the error and let it retry on the next message you will likely see it start working. You have not given tf a chance to accumulate messages in the listener's buffer. By retrying on subsequent messages you will give the buffer time to fill.

There are several tf tutorials. This one is most relevant to your use case: http://wiki.ros.org/tf/Tutorials/tf%20and%20Time%20%28C%2B%2B%29