This week, hard-core baseball fans are “living the dream”. They are wearing actual licensed MLB Red Sox uniforms and playing with former baseball legends in sunny Florida. They are experiencing this once in a lifetime opportunity for a price. I followed them around for two days, but I also paid a price for moving my gear down the east coast. Thanks to the mishandling of my checked luggage, I am “living the nightmare” with a broken tripod.

Fort Myers Baseball
Former MLB Players
Training Camp
Fantasy Player

I just got back from chilly Fort Myers, Florida last night. I shot a documentary on the Red Sox Fantasy Training Camp for a local network television station. I got a lot of great stuff and I thank my Sony PMW-EX1, Letus Extreme and Vinten Vision 3 tripod for that. BUT…

Let this be a warning to all who read this blog and travel gear from place to place.

Vinten Vision 3

JetBlue Broke My Vinten Tripod.

The Vision 3’s ride in the soft travel bag from Boston’s Logan Airport to South West Florida Airport was a rough one. I had the tripod head wrapped in bubble wrap and beach towels, but that did not save it from the blunt trauma. I found the damage on the first day of shooting in Florida. I should have inspected my gear more closely at the airport, but I was in a rush.

Added Protection
Big Crack in the Plastic

Crack in the Vision 3 Head Case
Broken Knob

It appears the bag was dropped. One of the three hinged plastic plates near the head has cracked and detached from the bowl. I had to deal with irregular pans and unexpected movement while operating the camera during my time in Florida. That sucked. I also found a small crack in the metal casing near the tilt friction knob. If that was not enough, the tilt lock knob has a hairline fracture. I respect this tripod a lot and it has served me very well. I love how smooth it is. The Vision pan head series has allowed me to do amazing things with my camera when it comes to precise panning and tilting.

I am booked solid and must use this tripod, it its current state, until I can either get it fixed or buy a better Vinten Vision tripod system, like the 11 or 100. I may just settle for aluminum sticks with 100mm bowl, rather than the very expensive carbon fiber option.

When on a job, the most important piece of equipment is the camera. I carry it on the airplane with me and I keep a very close eye on it. I always have a few batteries, tape/media and a single wireless mic system in the Porta Brace camera bag to be able to make television even if all my other equipment is lost. Checking my television luggage has always been a stressful situation when I travel. I use padded, air and water tight Pelican Cases for most of my gear. But, my tripod will not fit in any of these type of cases.

Now that the second most important piece of television gear has been damaged, the tripod, I am going to change my travel technique. I should have packed this vital bit of gear in a padded, hard shell tripod case. I plan on buying one (or two) soon.

Padded Soft Case
JetBlue - Sticker

When I spend thousands on a larger Vinten tripod system, I will never travel the tripod and head in a soft padded Vinten tripod bag. The “Fragile, Do not drop” sticker that JetBlue stuck on the bag means nothing to the guys who load baggage into the belly of a commercial airplane.

So why don’t I file a claim with JetBlue? I just do not have the time to waste… and I love the fact that they have loads of legroom and 40 channels of in-seat DirectTV.

Once the documentary airs and I get approval, I will post some of the footage on this site for you to check out. When I get a new tripod, I will review it here on my site.

UPDATE 2/10/09: I spoke to JetBlue and they are unable to help me because I did not file a claim within four hours of arrival in Florida. I am currently working with Vinten to get my tripod repaired.