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UC San Diego development officer takes “Best of Show” at San Diego County Fair photography exhibition

Jacaranda by Kim Signoret-Paar

Best of Show/1st place, b/w Architecture/Cityscape: “The Quiet of the Night in Transylvania”

Kim Signoret-Paar, UC San Diego’s senior director of scholarship giving, was awarded “Best of Show” last week at the annual San Diego County Fair photography exhibition held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

A lifelong photographer, Signoret-Paar has been with the university since 2001, focused on raising funds for scholarships for undergraduate students.

“When I saw my name at the top of the awards list as the Best of Show, I truly couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I was elated, almost speechless. It’s such a great honor to be selected by that group of judges, all of whom are veteran professional photographers.”

The winning photo – “The Quiet of the Night in Transylvania” – was selected from the first-place awards in 35 categories, culled from more than 4,500 original entries. It captures the stark look of the ancient and recently renovated town square in the Romanian city of Sibiu.

“To me, the scene had a mysterious, intriguing feel,” she said. “From the moment I saw it, I knew I had to try to capture what I saw.”

Signoret-Paar shot the photograph last September while on a nine-day driving trip through Romania with her husband, Hans Paar, a UC San Diego professor of physics.

“I told him I wanted to get some night shots, so we went out for a short walk around midnight,” she recalled. “I happened to see this building in the city’s historic center, which dates back to the 14th century.”

The “Best of Show” photo was taken with an exposure of 22 seconds, at f-stop 20.

In addition, Signoret-Paar received a second-place ribbon for her photo of a blooming jacaranda, taken in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Park; and a fourth-place ribbon for an up-close photo of a ladybug on a broad leaf, taken in San Diego’s Balboa Park.

Transylvania by Kim Signoret-Paar

2nd place, Color Scenic-Spring: “Jacaranda begins to bloom”

Signoret-Paar credits her UC San Diego Extension Professional Certificate in Photography: Images and Techniques, which she completed in 2011, as the turning point in mastering her craft.

“I consider myself a proud poster child for that program,” said Signoret-Paar, who had special praise for Extension instructors Leland Foerster, Adriene Hughes, and Rebecca Webb. “They all helped me transform my passion for photography into artistic expression. It’s been life changing for me.”

Signoret-Paar has been an avid photographer since childhood, when she took her new Brownie on a second-grade field trip to Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois.

When she was 13, one of her photos won a championship ribbon at the Scott County Fair in her hometown of Davenport, Iowa. That’s when she dreamed of becoming a globe-trotting photographer for National Geographic.

Ladybug by Kim Signoret-Paar

4th place, Cell Phone Photography: “Ladybug on a Field of Green”

Signoret-Paar later earned a journalism degree from the University of Iowa and went on to spend 10 years in public relations in the San Francisco Bay Area. She accepted a role in Mexico City with the American Chamber of Commerce before moving to San Diego in 1987. After 13 years at the University of San Diego in donor relations, she joined UC San Diego in 2001 as director of development, student affairs.

Over the years, Signoret-Paar served as her family’s enthusiastic photographer, “chronicling the passage of time with my trusty Olympus and Canon 35mm camera in hand, along with the requisite Kodachrome film.”

Added Signoret-Paar: “Earning my certificate at Extension not only opened the door to learn more about digital photography, but also the art of making a photograph. It truly sent me on a path that I once dreamed of … that of creating art.”