Ansel (was: R&Darktable)

I can understand that frustration and as someone who works with/in “real photographer” circles it’s been hard to get anything outside of the Adobe solutions taken seriously. I’ll touch on why I think that is down below. People rarely ask or care about my philosophical thoughts, but as to the notion that “too many engineering PhDs and and not enough real artists are using darktable” I think Dr Richard Feynman said something about this:

I have a friend who’s an artist and has sometimes taken a view which I don’t agree with very well. He’ll hold up a flower and say “look how beautiful it is,” and I’ll agree. Then he says “I as an artist can see how beautiful this is but you as a scientist take this all apart and it becomes a dull thing,” and I think that he’s kind of nutty. First of all, the beauty that he sees is available to other people and to me too, I believe. Although I may not be quite as refined aesthetically as he is … I can appreciate the beauty of a flower. At the same time, I see much more about the flower than he sees. I could imagine the cells in there, the complicated actions inside, which also have a beauty. I mean it’s not just beauty at this dimension, at one centimeter; there’s also beauty at smaller dimensions, the inner structure, also the processes. The fact that the colors in the flower evolved in order to attract insects to pollinate it is interesting; it means that insects can see the color. It adds a question: does this aesthetic sense also exist in the lower forms? Why is it aesthetic? All kinds of interesting questions which the science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower. It only adds. I don’t understand how it subtracts.

Granted there are academic definitions for art, degrees and accreditation but I can see where the notion that “too many geeks and not enough real artists use this software” would rub people the wrong way. It certainly does me to a degree and smells of an elitist view. Yes, I have day jobs in geeky fields. Yes, I was a pro photographer for a number of years and have spent quite a long of time and energy on learning, training, reading and so forth. I’m actually pretty locally respected in that field, yeah I’m not on the cover of Vogue or Nat Geo or whatever but the amount of “real artsits” who regard me with some level of respect is confidence is, well, something I guess.

Sometimes people can be both and that’s fine. Not all art is great or even noteworthy either. Ultimately we are human beings and can try to be dispassionate but emotions are part of our fiber and hard to ignore. I’m trying to do better and it would help if the rhetoric on stuff like that can cool down some.

As to the aforementioned lack of uptake of dartkable I think that’s down to Adobe’s market dominance and the fact that digital photography is still very much a commodity. Most of the BFA and MFA having photographers I know break out the wet plates, film or Polaroids when they want to be creative. Digital is still seen as the work van in that it just needs to do its job so they can get paid so they’re going for the solutions that worka the fastest and have the broadest range of support. There’s very little incentive to look outside that box for most of them because of the production pressure and the lack of differentiation on the output to a degree. If you use a wet plate it’s got a certain aesthetic, darktable and Lightroom do basically the same thing and can produce very similarly pleasing results but ultimately there’s not a novelty to using darktable really like there is a giant Polaroid camera or something like that. At least from my simple view art at least has one foot in the novelty world too. Digital is still like fast food for most of these folks and it’s hard to really make a dent in that thinking IMO.


I do follow or at least skim this thread, though usually not logged in, so:



At some point, we need a summary. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

I think part of the reason we are still discussing him so much here, is because many people, me included, want to avoid exactly this. So we occasional have a look at Ansel to see if anything was fixed there, that should be fixed in dt too, or if any new ideas were implemented, that we could learn from. Or even if something he mentions in his rants could be easily fixed. We would prefer bug reports filed in the dt github, but we are not expecting that, either from AP himself or from Ansel users. So we do the leg work ourselves; this is how open source works. But it can be a little hard to, on every visit, have to read insults or threats. And to know that spectators will judge that, just because we don’t have constructive arguments with him, he must be right on all counts. Whereas we have tired of trying as well, over the years. And people will believe what they want to believe.

Anyway, some of us have now been blocked from his github. In my case possibly for kindly requesting he remove the standalone midi module that he carries so much hatred for and that he should have no interest in inflicting on his users.


You make a valid point, but it is factually incorrect that midi was the driver for the changes. It was initially more seen as a test case of whether the framework was flexible enough. It just turned out sufficiently well that it seems to have some users. The gamepad module is an even more minimalist test. And any slider can be manipulated from lua and so by extension from another application using dbus. See a condensation of some of the discussions on irc that led to it here [FR] new pluggable input (not for drawing!) system for darktable · Issue #5063 · darktable-org/darktable · GitHub

The counterposition here is confusing. Nothing can be a priority unless there is a developer who is willing to scratch that itch (for free, in most cases). There is no list of priorities that people work off of. This is not how any of this works. Given that we are all “amateurs” (i.e. with varying availability), it is already unlikely that teams of developers would work together on something. We are lucky if we can find anybody willing to comment on proposals or code, let alone test what we have produced. And sometimes you need to do a lot of infrastructure work before being able to start the next phase. And then the lack of enthusiasm to engage or discuss “specs”/“requirements”/“wishes” can kill even the most annoying itch.

Of course we all know that this is not supposed to be how software development works; give us the budget of Blender and we’ll start work on changing it tomorrow! (Not joking here; I’m sure there’d be people willing to give up their day job for that kind of money. Even if it means writing unit tests). Which, in the end, is the argument AP makes; give him more money and everything will be better. His “rants” are basically a job interview. Not one he would pass in any organisation I have ever worked in, but good on him for trying!


Indeed, there isn’t really a road map and, for better or worse, there isn’t a product manager or manager or anyone who provides a single direction for the project to move in.

There is list of broken things and things people would like to see.

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And to become such a leader, you wouldn’t just need intelligence and vision, and maybe a little bit of humility as well, but you’d need at least a minimal amount of charisma.


Let’s also add that we try hard to avoid to replicate the things we blame him for : when we import some code from his project, we keep its ownership (reverse is false). Many bugs he has spotted (but not fixed for most of them) have been fixed in dt. Recently, a dev a spotted a bug in some AP module, he has finally found the cause, fixed it… and has informed AP about the fix. etc.

And believe me, this attitude is far from easy when the person you are talking to is constantly rude, insults you, and even publicly threatens you by name…


I see AP still contributes code to dt on github

ansel with sigmoid. seems to work. next step inpaint opposed. maybe I will remove a lot of other things…

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Are you sure? The only bits of AP’s code I’ve seen on github have been someone from the darktable project cherry-picking commits from Ansel’s code. AFAIK none of them have been directly submitted to darktable by AP himself.

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well maybe this is very minor

Yes that looks like a commit that has been discovered by Pascal in Ansel and manually cherry-picked into darktable without AP’s involvement.


yes, it’s exaclty that :


This will become increasingly difficult though as the codebases begin to differ a lot…


Do you know when you do this if the changes AP made by ditching the histogram profile for example impact this. I know that it fed data to the color picker in DT but that flow is a bit altered in Ansel… just curious if its as easy as just plugging it back in as the pipeline that it goes into might be different and more so over time???

I don’t know anything about histogram profiles but it was pretty easy, although only the 4th compilation was successful. I just did this: I checked all commits on github/darktable that are relevant for sigmoid and made the corresponding changes in ansel. It was not much. At the end the compiler even told me what to change, I just had to add an S to TONE in sigmoid.c
I mean… makes one think that darktable code is actually quite clean if even someone without any programming skills can find what needs to be changed.
I won’t say that I know what I am doing, it was just trial and error.
On the other hand, I am kind of exploring dt code since years now, even though I still don’t understand about 90% of it, at least.
Hm… if you want to change something in the code in dt, usually the important part is easy to find and it’s very likely that someone already did something very similar. At least that’s my experience so far. So that probably proves that dt code is still in excellent shape.
But I guess modifying tiny bits of code is not the same as designing an entirely new module.

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Ya I was just curious… the histogram profile fed data to the color picker so I wasn’t sure how AP reworking that element might impact what data is passed to the sigmoid but it must be at some other point… I know that removing it broke the color picker for a short while in Ansel and then it was fixed… I think now there is only a display profile…

I think you basically have to work through all his commit history to see how/why he’s doing stuff (and read past the name calling). He doesn’t much put things into PRs for review or anything so you might struggle to find anything coherent.


This made me laugh…

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No that’s wrong. We have been cherry-picking one or two commits from Ansel and that’s all. And as @AlicVB said we do respect the authorship which is not the case of AP when he copy good part of dt and commit on his own name.

EDIT: Ok my message brings nothing new as already answered.


That’s not a rock it’s a pebble :slight_smile: