We report on a method for the characterization of intense, structured optical fields through the analysis of the size and surface structures formed inside the annular ablation crater created on the target surface. In particular, we apply the technique to laser ablation of crystalline silicon induced by femtosecond vector vortex beams. We show that a rapid direct estimate of the beam waist parameter is obtained through a measure of the crater radii. The variation of the internal and external radii of the annular crater as a function of the laser pulse energy, at fixed number of pulses, provides another way to evaluate the beam spot size through numerical fitting of the obtained experimental data points. A reliable estimate of the spot size is of paramount importance to investigate pulsed laser-induced effects on the target material. Our experimental findings offer a facile way to characterize focused, high intensity complex optical vector beams which are more and more applied in laser-matter interaction experiments.

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