I spent the better part of 2014 trying to figure out why I couldn't get sharp photos. The center area was coming up sharp but the areas to the left and right were soft, and almost blurry on the left side. I was using a tripod, vibration reduction, high shutter speeds, even tried different focal points and cable shutter release.
All of it was to no avail. (Although I finally broke out the camera and lens manuals and learned about some features I had not been using.)
Unfortunately the lens and camera body would have to go back to Nikon for repair, and I just didn't have the funds at the moment to pay for the shipping or the potential repairs. So off to the closet the set went for several months until funds became available.
Four months went by before I could finally send the pair back to Nikon. Sure enough one of the focus rings had been shifted from who knows what. While the equipment was at Nikon, I borrowed a consignment lens and was getting surprisingly tack sharp photos with the lens on another one of my camera bodies.
Moral of the story: trust that your skill set is good. If I knew how to get a sharp photo two years ago, then I certainly should have been getting a sharp photo a year later.
Thankfully the lens could be repaired. And several photos from last year have actually been published, including this one of a brown bear cub with his mom. Depending on my composition the blurry edges could actually give a unique look to the camera. The unfortunate part was that I lost many great shots on many great trips, including two to Alaska, one to Yellowstone and one to Bosque among dozens of photo outings in Colorado.
If I had trusted my instincts when the problem first appeared, I would not be clamoring to get back to Alaska to get those shots again. But whose complaining about returning to Alaska? Certainly not I!