Creating a sense of Serenity with Chris Turner


by Chris Turner

I’d like to share a very simple technique that makes full use of the motion blur filter to impart a sense of stillness and tranquillity to a shot. Sounds ridiculous, right? Well, read on.

Picking the right shot to use is the key to success here – you need a subject that instills a feeling of immobility, in this case a boat on calm water, but it could be a building, or other permanent structure. The surroundings have some influence but as we are going to blur them beyond recognition, the tones are of more importance to us.

So, below is my chosen image. Nothing special to look at is it? A quite dull shot of a boat in a bay in Scotland (it was misty but not in a dramatic way).


As I already visualized this as a black & white image (or grey-scale if you want to be picky).

I opened up the image in Camera Raw (but you could use any suitable photo editing software program) and made some basic adjustments. I converted to grey-scale, increased the brightness and contrast, concentrating on the boat, as that will remain the only part of the shot unaffected by the motion blur. I then opened the image in Photoshop.


Next, I duplicated the layer – Layer>Duplicate Layer (or Ctrl+J on a PC)

Then with the new (top) layer selected I applied the Motion Blur filter – Filter>Blur>Motion Blur with the following options Angle 0, and Distance 998.


Still staying on the top layer, I added a layer mask – Layer>Layer Mask>Hide All.


tip: You can also add a layer mask by clicking the 3rd icon that looks like a rectangle with a circle in it. It defaults to hide all (filled with white)

Using a soft brush set to black (painting with black removes the mask) and with a low opacity, it’s just a case of removing the mask to reveal the parts of the image I wish to appear static, in this case, the boat.

tip: if you have a hard time knowing exactly where to paint with the black, temporarily lower the opacity of your layer and once finished, reset the opacity to 100%.





a crop showing the revealed details


I also revealed a little of the reflection in the water to give the boat some grounding in the image.

All that was left to do was to tweak the levels/brightness/contrast to my liking.


At this point I did add a gradient fill to the sky area to bring the focus back down to the boat area.


how to add a gradient fill


See, it’s simple, yet effective.


Below is another image that I applied this technique to, but chose a church rising above the rooftops in Dubrovnik. Notice how there was no real movement in the original image.


image before adding the motion blur and mask


After adding the motion blur and the mask:



Notice how peaceful the scene now looks. Amazingly, with the right image, you can actually create a sense of peacefulness and serenity by adding what normally we would to create a sense of motion, that is, motion blur.

I hope you enjoyed this tutorial,

If you enjoyed this tutorial, please share with others either on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or any other.

ChrisTurnerChris Turner is a wonderful photographer that volunteers as an admin at Although, many of his images show his incredible sense of humor, he also takes images such as you see above that show another more ‘serene’ side. He lives with his family in Lancashire, United Kingdom.

check out Chris’s (username Morporkian) portfolio here .

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Creating a sense of Serenity with Chris Turner by Chris Turner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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