A photographer's 'Best of Show' captures enchanted scene: Certificate program 'life-changing'

Kim Signoret-Paar, UC San Diego’s senior director of scholarship giving, is also a life-long photographer.


More than Fair: UC San Diego's Kim Signoret-Paar with her ribbons

Last week, she learned that one of her photos was selected “Best of Show” at the San Diego County Fair’s Exhibition of Photography.

Her winning entry was selected from the first-place awards in 35 categories, the winners among more than 4,300 entries initially submitted.

She also received a second-place award and a fourth-place award for two other photos.

“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 “Best of Show” photo of the renovated historic town center in Sibiu, Romania captures the enchanted look and feel of the 15th and 16th centuries.

“In September of last year, I was on a nine-day driving trip through Romania with my husband (Hans Paar, a UC San Diego professor of physics),” she recalled. “I told him I wanted to get some night shots, so we went out for a short walk around midnight into the large and small squares of the historic center, looking for just the right combination of shadow and light.”

Titled “The Quiet of the Night in Transylvania,” the black-and-white photograph was taken with a long exposure of 22 seconds, at f-stop 20.

“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 credits coursework she took en route to earning her UC San Diego Extension Professional Certificate in Photography: Images and Techniques 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 photography 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.”

Best of Show/First place, b/w Architecture/Cityscape
Title: “The Quiet of the Night in Transylvania”
Site: Piaţă Mică (“Small Square”), Sibiu, Romania
Date: September 2013

Second place, Color Scenic-Spring

Title: “Jacaranda begins to bloom”
Site: Chapultepec Park, Mexico City
Date: March 2013

Fourth place, Cell Phone Photography
Title: “Ladybug on a Field of Green”
Site: Spanish Village, Balboa Park, San Diego
Date: August 2013

In her own words:
By Kim Signoret-Paar

My love of photography dates back to childhood, when I took my first camera, a Brownie, on a second-grade field trip to President Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois.

When I was 13, one of my photos won a championship ribbon at the Scott County Fair in my hometown of Davenport, Iowa. At that time my father had let me borrow the 35mm camera he had brought back from Japan. With his help and encouragement, I started to learn more about the finer points of aperture, speed, depth of field, and focus.

I subscribed to photography magazines and I dreamed of becoming a photographer for “National Geographic.” Inspired, I even sent away for information from the famous Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara.

While in college, I took photography classes and spent time in the darkroom developing and printing my photos. I explored creative processing and learned such darkroom techniques as dodging and burning.

Eventually, I earned a journalism degree from the University of Iowa, went into public relations, and worked for the American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico City before moving to San Diego in 1987. After 13 years at the University of San Diego in donor relations, I joined UC San Diego in 2001 as director of development, Student Affairs.

During these years, I was my family’s enthusiastic photographer chronicling the passage of time with my trusty Olympus and then a Canon 35mm camera in hand along with the requisite Kodachrome film.

I entered into the digital age when my husband gave me my first digital camera in 2005 – that’s when Canon and Nikon first introduced an affordable DSLR (Digital Single Lens Reflex) camera to the general market.

The automatic settings were so good that I pretty much used it on automatic, knowing that I was using only a fraction of its capability.

Earning my certificate at Extension opened the door to learning more about not only digital photography, but also the art of making a photograph. It sent me on a path that I once dreamed of … the path of creating art.


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