In landscape photography, it is seldom that we come across a scene that is absolutely ideal. Often times, it takes a bit of time to prepare a scene prior to shooting. If I invest a bit of time in preparing a scene for a photo, it means I can save a lot of time removing a stray twig or leaf after the fact. I try to keep my prints as true to the original scene as possible. In an ideal situation, I should not have to do any tweaks to the drum scan. Prepping a scene for a photograph initially sounds like it goes against everything that Landscape Photography is suppose to represent. However, I find it to be a necessary part of photography.
When prepping a scene, I do not do anything that will permanently affect the area. When shooting in a desert region with sand, I will often times throw a fresh coat of sand to disguise footprints. I don’t have a problem with temporarily moving a distracting subject from the scene. If there is a loose tumble weed, piece of dead wood, or other “mobile” distracting element in the scene, I will often times move it out of the way for the photo. For these objects, I will return them to their position when I am done shooting. On the other hand, I feel that moving a subject specifically into the scene (a piece of dead wood, or a stone) usually looks contrived, and obviously placed there by man.
When shooting at the beach, I remove stray seaweed, or other elements that will wash up on the shore. I am not too concerned with returning seaweed to its original position though. The next high tide tends to take care of that anyway.
I do not believe in setting up a shot that did not exist in the first place. Moving rocks or other objects seems to go against the spirit of landscape photography. I find joy in stumbling across a scene where the elements are very photogenic, and placed there by nature (hopefully not by another photographer in the days or months prior to my visit).