We present a method for directly imaging the undisturbed near field of a particle resting on a surface. A comparison with numerical computations shows good agreement with the results of our experiments. These results have important consequences for laser-assisted particle removal where field enhancement may cause local surface damage and is one of the physical key processes in this cleaning method. On the other hand, the application of near fields at particles allows structuring of surfaces with structure dimensions in the order of 100 nm and even below.© (2002) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.