Ask the locals that attend the hotels and camps and the rangers where to and how to photograph specific areas--many of them are experienced amateur photographers and they are there every night, and they can really give you some good light and time tips.
Furnace creek was 133 a night compared to 95 at Stovepipe, and the rooms were nicer, had a phone, TV, with a death valley video playing, and a small fridge. The cafe was decent and the prices were cheap--8-12 US for a good meal. Gas was about the same or perhaps slightly cheaper than Stovepipe. I never felt like I was getting ripped off by either place.
Furnace Creek is also much clloser to teh popular places.
Visit Titus Canyon. We didn't, but the video playing at Furnace Creek convinced me it was a do worthy.
I wanted to shoot Badwater the last morning, but the front desk clerk talked me out of it--he said there was no water in the basin and the sun didn't hit the floor until past 10AM. This is invaluable information.
Death Valley is a really hard place to get a hold of photographically. I have a profound new respect for those that do get unique images here. It's a vast place and you don't have any time to make up for bad or ignorant choices on locations--you simply miss the shot.
I would suggest, for those with time, to go to Death Valley for two days and see all the regular sites by just doing a drive by type visit, about 15 minutes in each spot, and then spend the rest of the time hiking when you need to to get a location. Do as many places as you can. The north area is much less popular, like Titus canyon, but is magnificent. Do this and note the sun positions each time.
Come back after marking where you want to be at sun rise and sunset. The sun comes up later than sunrise because of the mountains, and teh light fall off is complete, with almost no residual color after the sun goes behind the mountains.
I wanted to find an interesting plant in the dunes and use a strobe to create a san/plant like black and white studio image, except that it would be done in the wilderness, and at night to provide a black background. I didn't find that opportunity. It gives you something to do after the sun goes down. Although most of you don't care about studio type stuff.
A ranger told me to shoot Mosaic Canyon in direct overhead light because the rocks I spoke of above really like up and their color comes out. Any other time and the canyon is in shadow.
I feel compelled to return to this place because I think there is a very good shot to be had here, a unique shot, not simply a good shot. I have family about 3.5 hours away, and when I visit I may return until I get that image.
Death Valley can be very dangerous. You expect rangers to err on the side of caution, but here they tell you like it is. If they say, "tough" they mean it. Be very aware of your surroundings. If you go down in a remote location, chances of you being found are slim.
Thanks for the replies, but even more, I hope it can help someone when planning this trip.
Here are some pretty much out of camera shots, with a little level adjustment. If you look close enough, you can even see hairs and spots from a dirty sensor. That happened the first night at Eureka Dunes because I actually did a lens change while I was in the dunes themselves, on a fleece pullover and nothing more to protect the camera.
I'm not happy with any of the images I shot, but I thought some of you might like to see the scenery anyway.
This is from the night I almost killed myself in Mosaic Canyon using studio strobes and battery packs:
First night in Eureka Dunes after my sensor cluttering lens change:
Again, first night in Eureka Dunes:
Morning in Eureka Dunes after we almost froze to death:
Again, Eureka Dunes:
Hand Held shot from Augeraberry Point, which I thought was an ugly POV and crappy haze in the sky, and which now I wish I had shot with a tripod:
And last and probably least, from the place I didn't want to shoot at all, Zabriskie Point:
And for my finale, I'm going to spend all of tomorrow cleaning my equipment.