I think setting gets a raw deal a lot of times. We hear again and again how we have to cut exposition and trim unnecessary words. And too often, I think this is translated into, "Cut the crap out of your setting."
It's true that long, purply paragraphs about sunsets and frothy waves are often wasted space, but there's another side to this story. Your setting is nothing less than the personality of your story. What would Wonka be without his factory? Dumbledore with Hogwarts? Jack without that island and its pink rocks? Inman without that damn mountain? These settings aren't just wasted paragraphs of exposition and adjectives ... they hover over the whole story, they breathe life into the events by assuming the characteristics of the story itself.
To me, this is how setting should be done. I want setting to be another, invisible character. I want it to tell me something, not merely exist as a backdrop. It doesn't have to take a lot of time, either. A setting is a few well-chosen details. When you describe a house, it might be less important how many feet wide it is, or how many windows it has, or what color it is ... than whether or not the gutters are sagging and overflowing with last fall's leaves. I want it to say something about the people who live there, not the mortgage officer who approved their loan.
Because ultimately, your setting is an extension of the characters themselves. The details they notice are the ones that make it into your book, and those are the details that define these people in the physical space they inhabit. It strikes me that setting isn't an afterthought, or an annoyance ... how you choose to describe your setting is more than physical -- it's central to the characters themselves and it hangs over your entire story like a vapor (my new favorite word).
So I'm sticking up for settings, and I'm sticking up for writers who take time to think hard about the little details that matter in their settings, and then take the time to include these important clues to the world they're creating.