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Electronic Imaging & Signal Processing

In memoriam: Gil Pendley, high-speed photography icon

SPIE Newsroom

Gil Pendley, Visual Instrumentation Corp.Gilbert James Pendley, 78, of Lancaster, CA, died on 7 March 2013, following a short battle with lymphatic cancer. He was founder and president of Visual Instrumentation Corp., and a pioneer in the development of high-speed photography, the technology that spawned SPIE.

As a service photographer and a motion picture cameraman, Pendley saw much of Europe and the Pacific Islands. He served in the Army from 1957 to 1959, and continued his pursuit of photography over the next several years. In 1964, he founded Visual Instrumentation Corporation in Burbank, CA. The company was at the forefront for many advances in high-speed photography and video over the past 49 years. Gil relocated his company to Lancaster in 1990, and poured most of his time into his company. He never married, nor had any children, but he cherished his relationships with relatives and friends. He leaves behind a sister-in-law, Shirley Pendley, as well as nieces, nephews and cousins, as well as many cherished friends and colleagues.

Visual Instrumentation Inc. provided a source for all kinds of specialized photographic instrumentation equipment, including cameras, light sources, and accessories, according to Bud Weisbrod, a founding member of the Los Angeles Chapter of SPIE (the Society originated in southern California in 1955).

"His name is legend in the high-speed imaging community," said Andrew Davidhazy of Rochester Institute of Technology, a professor in the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences and a participant in several high-speed imaging seminars organized by Pendley. "He was the ultimate defender of high-speed film systems. One might say he was like Don Quixote, fighting the digital windmills."

"Gil had a vast knowledge of the industry, including the people, equipment, and technology of the period," Weisbrod said. "He was an honest businessman and a gentleman as well."

His contributions to SPIE publications spanned four decades. His papers included "Synchro-Ballistic Photography Revisited" (Optical Engineering 20[5], 1981) and "High speed imaging technology: yesterday, today, and tomorrow" (Proc. SPIE 4948, 25th International Congress on High-Speed Photography and Photonics, 2003).

"He was a great raconteur of interesting and bizarre stories related to high speed events in the government as well as industrial situations," Davidhazy said. "I could listen and take in his historical snippets for hours."