Total internal reflection fluorescence microscope is a new optical microscopic system based on near-field optical theory. Its character of illumination by evanescent wave, together with the great signal-to-noise ratio and temporal resolution achieved by high quality CCD, allows us to analyze the spatiotemporal details of local Ca2+ dynamics within the nanoscale microdomain surrounding different Ca2+ channels. We have recently constructed a versatile objective TIRFM equipped with a high numerical aperture (NA=1.45) objective. Using fluo-4 as the Ca2+ indicator, we visualized the near-membrane profiles of Ca2+ waves and elementary Ca2+ sparks generated by Ca2+ release channels in rat ventricular myocytes. Different from those detected using conventional and confocal microscopy, Ca2+ waves observed with TIRFM exhibited fine inhomogenous substructures composed of fluctuating Ca2+ sparks. The anfractuous routes of spark recruitment suggested that the propagation of Ca2+ waves is much more complicated than previously imagined. We believe that TIRFM will provide a unique tool for dissecting the microscopic mechanisms of intracellular Ca2+ signaling.